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e I ^ t . 



Papers 1 to 11 




OF History and 



WS'n NOV 16 1959 

ISSUED NOVl 61959 

Smithsonian Institution 

Remington Kellooo 

Trank a. Taylor, Director 

Afiisfum of ///'A"V 'iiiil Tirhwiliniv 

Albert C. Smith, Director 
Museum oj jXatural History 

Publications of the United States National Museum 

The scientific publications of the United Stales National Museum include two 
scries, Proceedings oj the United States National Museum and United States National Museum 


In these series are published original articles and monographs dealing with the 
collections and work of the Museum and setting forth newly acquired facts in the 
fields of Anthropolog)', Biology, Geolog)', History, and Technology. Copies of 
each publication are distributed to libraries and scientific organizations and to 
specialists and others interested in the dififerent subjects. 

The Proceedings, begun in 1878, are intended for the publication, in separate 
form, of shorter papers. These are gathered in volumes, octavo in size, with the 
publication date of each paper recorded in the taljle of contents of the volume. 

In the Bulletin series, the first of which was issued in 1875, appear longer, separate 
publications consisting of monographs (occasionally in several parts) and volumes 
in which are collected works on related subjects. Bulletins are either octavo or 
qiiarto in size, depending on the needs of the presentation. Since 1902 papers re- 
lating to the botanical collections of the Museum have been published in the Bulletin 
series under the heading Contributions Jrom the United Stales National Herbarium. 

John S. Lea 
Editor, United Stales Motional Museum 

Ernest E. Biebichauser, Senior Editor 

Frank Dobias, Art Editor 

United States Government Printing Office, VVAsiiiNcr(i\. 1059 

NOV 10 1959 

For sale by the Siipi-rintcndcnt of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Oflice .?S. D C. - Piiec S2.50 



1 . The Scholfield wool-carding machines 1 

Grace L. Rogers 

2. John Dccrc's steel plow 15 

Edward C. Kendall 

3. The beginnings of cheap steel 27 

Philip W. Bishop 

4. The Auburndale Watch Company 49 

Edwin A. Battison 

5. Development of the phonograph at Alexander Graham Bell's Volta 

Laboratory 69 

Leslie J. Newville 

6. On the origin of clockwork, perpetual inoiioii devices, and the compass . 81 

Derek J. de Solla Price 

7. Mine pumping in Agricola's lime and later 113 

Robert P. Multhai'f 

8. The natural philosophy of William Gilbert and Ills jjredccessors .... 121 

W. James King 

9. Concstoga wagons in Braddock's campaign, 175.S 141 

Donald H. Berkebile 

10. Old English patent medicines in America 155 

George B. Griffeniiagen and James Harvey Young 

11. Why Bewick succeeded : A note on the history of wood engraving ... 185 

Jacob Kainen 



the Smithsonian Institution's United States National Museum is pleased to 
present this its first collection of pul)lished papers. This volume of the United Slates 
A'alional Museum Bulletin series marks another step in the century-long effort of dedi- 
cated Smithsonian curators to develop a complete national musuem of the United 
States — a museum which through its scholarly research and puljlications, as well as 
through its collections and exhil)its, will increase and diffuse knowledge of the cul- 
tural, scientific, and technological history of the Nation, including its heritage from 
older cultures and scholarship. 

This volume was conceived by Robert P. Multhauf, head curator of the Museum's 
Department of Science and Technology, as a tribute to Mr. Greville Bathe for his 
fine contributions to the history of technology. It is equally a recognition of the 
inspiration which the work of Bathe and other historians of science and engineering 
has provided, during the past quarter-century, to museum curators collecting and 
interpreting the objects that record our history. 

Greville Bathe's stout works on Oliver Evans and Jacob Perkins and his enter- 
taining Engineer's miscellany comprise in themselves a complete justification for the 
study of the history of technology. In Oliver Evans the view of the exciting period 
spanning the transition from American colonies to United States is illuminated as it 
seldom is in political or narrative history. Insights into the problems of authoring 
and publishing, the efforts of the colonies to encourage and protect inventors, remon- 
strances against the threat of technological unemployment, the struggle with the 
wilderness and all obstacles to communications, the promotion of manufacturies 
west of the Alleghenies, consultations between the country's leaders and the mecha- 
nicians, are only a few of the dividends found in this day to day account of great 
inventor and a daring risk-taker. In Jacob Perkins, Bathe descrilies a surprising 
export of skill and scientific inquiry from the new world to the old. 

One cannot read these works — or the papers presented here — without recog- 
nizing that technological progress is a mainstream of cultural development. It is 
equally evident that these studies provide background for viewing present day 
problems in true perspective and that the knowledge they impart helps us to cope 
more successfully with technology's smashing impact on our lives. 

It is encouraging that the time was found by the authors of these papers to 
study and write while they were engaged in planning facilities and exhibits for the 
new Museum ol History and Technology building now under construction. This 
promises a program that will accelerate when the building is opened. 

The imaginative design of this volume of the Bulletin series is the work of the 
Editorial and Publications Division of the Smithsonian Institution, with the as,sist- 
ance and cooperation of the Government Printing Office. 

Frank \. Tavior. Director 
Museum of History and Technology 
July 22, 1959 
Washington, D.C. 

Contributions from 
The Museum of History and Technology: 

Paper 1 

The Scholfield Wool-Carding Machines 

Grace L. Rogers 






By Grace L. Rogers 




First to appear among the inventions that sparked the industrial 
revolution in textile making ivas the flying shuttle, then various 
devices to spin thread and yarn, and lastly machines to card the raiv 
fibers so they could be spun and woven. Carding is thus the im- 
portant first step. For processing short-length wool fibers its 
mechanization proved most dijficult to achieve. 

To the United States in 1793 came John and Arthur Scholfield, 
bringing with them the knowledge of how to build a successful wool- 
carding machine. From this contribution to the technology of our 
then itifatit country developed another new industry. 

The Author: Grace L. Rogers is curator of textiles. Museum 
of History and Technology!, in the Smithsonian Institution' s United 
States National Museum. 

CARDING IS THE NECESSARY preliminary step by 
which individual short fiiacrs of wool or cotton 
are separated and cleaned of foreign materials so they 
can be spun into yarn. The thoroughness of the card- 
ing determines the quality of the yarn, while the posi- 
tion in which the carded fibers are laid determines its 
type. The fibers are laid parallel in order to spin a 
smooth compact yarn, or they arc crossed and inter- 
mingled to produce a soft bulky yarn. 

Figure i . — .\n Origi.nal Scholfifxd Wooi.-Card- 
INO Machink, built by .Arthur Scholfield or under 
his immediate direction between 1803 and 1814, as 
exhibited in the hall of textiles of the U. S. National 
Museum {cat. no. Tiiroo). The exhibits in this 
hall are part of those being prepared for the enlarged 
hall of textiles in the new Museum of History and 
Technology now under construction. (Smilhsoiiian 
/i/iolo 45396.) 

Primitive Carding 

The earliest method of carding wool was probably 
one in which, by use of the fingers alone, the tufts were 
|)ulled apart, the foreign particles loosened and ex- 
tracted, and the fibers blended. Fuller's teasels 
(thistles with hooked points, Dispasactis fullomtm). now 
better known for raising the nap on woven woolens, 
were also used at a very early date for carding. The 
teasels were mounted on a pair of small rectangular 
frames with handles; and from this device developed 
the familiar small hand card (see fig. 2), measuring 
about 8 inches by 5 inches, in which card clothing 
(wire teeth embedded in leather) was mounted on a 
board with the wire teeili bent and angled toward the 
handle. The wool was placed on one card and a sec- 
ond card was dragged it, the two hands pulling 
away from each other. This action separated the 
fibers and laid them parallel to the handle, in a thin 
film. After the fibers had been carded in this wav sev- 




I'AI IS SrncniAimN 

Figure 2. — Hand Cards "Used on Plantation or Marv C. Purvis," Nelson County, Vir- 
ginia, during early i8oo's and now in U. S. National Museum {cat. no. T2848; Smitluonian 
photo 37258). 

Figure 3. — -The First Machine in Lewis Paul's British Patent 636, Issued August 30, 1748. 
The treadle moved the card-covered board B\ , in a horizontal direction as necessary to perform 
the carding operation. With the aid of the needlcslick the fibers were removed separately 
from each of the 16 cards .V. The carded fibers were placed on a narrow cloth band, which 
unrolled from the small cylinder G, on the left, and was rolled up with the fibers on the cylinder 
/, at the right. 

.Miif.r I. 

II., ,,„,tl..l ,1 r,.t ,.. ,..</rA ,,/-/../ 


inny oitiit lilt fyti/ulf/ (i 


The uffitr (mil 




Vit \retl/r*tul 


— .^ — --. 

^ - — _ _ 



eral times, the cards were turned so that the handles 
were together and once again they were pulled across 
each other. With the wire teeth now angled in the 
same direction, the action rolled the carded fibers 
into a sliver (a loose roll of untwisted fibers) that was 
the length of the hand card and about the diameter 
of the finger. This placed the wool fibers crosswise in 
relation to the length of the sliver, their best position 
for spinning.' Until the mid-18th century hand cards 
were the only type of implement available for carding. 

First Mechanical Cards 

The earliest mechanical device for carding fibers 

' The same type of hand cards were also used for cotton in 
Colonial America, but because the cotton fibers were not laid 
parallel in the sliver only coarse yarns could be spun. In ancient 
Peru the fibers for spinning fine cotton yarns were prepared 
with the fingers alone. In India the cotton fibers were combed 
with the fine-toothed jawbone of the boalee fish before the 
fibers were removed from the seed. (J. F. Watson, The textile 
manufactures and the costumes of the people of India, London, 1866, 
p. 64.) 

was invented by Lewis Paul in England in 1738 but 
not patented until August 30, 1748. The patent de- 
scribed two machines. The first, and less miportant, 
machine consisted of 16 narrow cards mounted on a 
board; a single card held in the hand performed the 
actual carding operation (see fig. 3). The second 
machine utilized a horizontal cylinder covered with 
parallel rows of card clothing. Under the cylinder 
was a concave frame lined with similar card clothing. 
As the cylinder was turned, the cards on it worked 
against those on the concave frame, .separating and 
straightening the fibers (see fig. 4). After the fibers 
were carded, the concave section was lowered and the 
fibers were stripped off by hand with a needle stick, 
an implement resembling a comb with very fine 
ncedlelike metal teeth. Though his machine was far 
from perfect. Lewis Paul had invented the carding 

Figure 4.— The Patent Description of Paul's 
Second Machine suggested that the fibers be carded 
by a cylinder action, but be removed in the same 
manner as directed in the first patent. 

A I ) j: i~s . .\„.., ;i() . .w (w)r. , 


A.D. ir48.— N°C3C. 

Poiif# Machint for Carditi^ Wool, Ctdton. ^r. 

A, A. A, A, U)c frame. 

B, D, Uw cylinder. 

C, C, ibo concafc. 

D, D. the ftrbor of the concave. 
5 E, E, the cross barr. 

F, the pnlW. 

G, the lovrr that the iirlK)r rrsts on. 
& by which it receives it's per|>on- 
diculnr tnotioo. 

11, the windlass for moring y iettr. 
I. the string that coddccca the policy 

\ kvcr. 
K. the stAoditnU that supporta «■ 

L, tho axis of the rvtindrr. 
M, the wjndlau hy which j' rjliodcr 

U tum'd abouL 
n. n, n, n 't, the rows of canli. 



Printrd by r.mnoiE Kdwarp KT»r «n.) Williui Srom.<n»ooii^ 

l>hDl*n to the QuMit's noM EiopUcnt Majaty. IMS. 


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,,initH ,n tyhndtrNTI. 

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CyfindffS at a [irij>tr tfi^ttduuc- fr^ftl rath cthtr. 

F. Thf nAirMud inn hnn that art jirttMtd' to the side trorui 
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( i /V Mtaid C^Undfr trKctler 
II thelhinlfybtulera-HMrr. 

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■t ifiwt/ur i.ini llu \M\4lii (i-ttrn ,v.// 

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cfwhith ihfy "lay/v ••••tliU iiny iliMaiue- fh)m- rath- cthtr. 
Al Wlicth thai turn tht ufnght shaJts irn/itry.and .v ntmuntfOit 

inctu-n If etuh Cylindtr 
N Tt*vvt'furlf Mith (niid.^ that lylfttxMTtvds drawthtsttxnd and 

itxtrthi Cyltndfr te and ^ i/i/ a sidtJtng nuitai , iiiavttrtcthfprryf 

the wvcl tr (otttwi tiptaliy nrr the. faide: 
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riirfuvt tt^the tvhcU' ttuwi' . 

JV.B. A frame tf there (yhndert is the Mt^f mth thtf mede/ when 

the (purih Cylinder w taken' away Du/ueJ litm/it 

Figure 5. — Illustrations From British Patent 628, Issued January 20, 1748, 
to Daniel Bourn for a roller card machine. 


Figure 6. — Ihe Most Important Sinoi.k Feature 
illustraU-d in Richard Arkvvright's British patent 1 1 1 1 
of December i6, 1775, provided "a crank and a 
frame of iron with teeth" to remove the carded fibers 
from the cylinder. 

perpetual revolving cloth, called a feeder," that fed 
the fibers into the machine.- Shortly afterward, the 
stripper rollers ^ and the doffer comb ■* (a mechanical 
utilization of Paul's hand device) were added. Both 
James Hargrcavcs and Richard Arkwrighl claimed to 
Ije the inventor of these improvements, but it was 
Arkwright who, in 1775, first patented these ideas. 
His comb and crank (see fig. 6) provided a mechanical 
means by which the carded fibers could be removed 
from the cylinder. With this, the cylinder card be- 
came a practical machine. Arkwright continued the 
modification of the dofling end by drawing the carded 
fibers through a funnel and then passing them through 
two rollers. This produced a continuous sliver, a 
narrow ribbon of fibers ready to be spun into yarn. 
However, it was soon realized that the bulk charac- 
teristic desired in woolen yarns (but not desired in the 
compact types such as worsted yarns or cotton yarns) 
required that the wool be carded in a machine that 
would help prochice this. 

cylinder working with stationary cards and the 
stripping comb. 

Another important Britisli patent was granted in 
1748 to Daniel Bourn, who invented a machine with 
four carding rollers set close together, the first of the 
roller-card type (see fig. 5). To produce a practical 
carding machine, however, several additional me- 
chanical improvements were necessary. The first of 
these did not appear until more than two decades 
later, in 1772, when John Lees of Manchester is 
reported to have invented a machine featuring "a 

- Edward Baincs, History of Ihe cotton manufacture in Great 
Britain, London, 1835, p. 176. 

2 The wire points of the worker roller pick up the fibers from 
the faster moving main cylinder, carding the fibers on contact. 
A stripping action takes place when tlie wires of the worker 
roller meet the points of the stripper roller in a "point to back" 
action. This arrangement is used to remove the wool from the 
worker and put it back on the wire teeth of the main cylinder. 
Illustrated in VV. Van Bergen and H. R. Mauersbcrger, Ameri- 
can wool handbook. New York, 1948, p. 451. 

* The doffer comb, a serrated metal plate the length of the 
rollers, removes the carded fibers from the last roller or doffer. 


N£ J^iiOsrECTor T^ Town or NKAMJIH^ PORT. 

Figure 7. — Newburvport, Massachusetts, in 1796, a.n Engravinc; From Joii.n J. Currier's 
History nf .Xewhuryport, Massachusetts, 1764-1909, vol. 2, Newburyport, 1906-09. 


In carding wool it was found more effective to omit 
the flat stationary cards and to use only rollers to 
work the fibers. The method of preparing the sliver 
also had to be changed. Since it was necessary to 
remove the wool fibers crosswise in the sliver, a fluted 
wooden cylinder called a roller-bowl was used in 
conjunction with an under board or shell. As a given 
section of the carded wool was fed between the fluted 
cylinder and the board, the action of the cylinder 
rolled the fibers into a sliver about the diameter of the 
finger and the length of the cylinder. Although these 
were only 24-inch lengths as compared to the con- 
tinuous sliver produced by the Arkwright cotton- 
carding machine," wool could slill be carded with 
much more speed and thoroughness than with the 
small hand cards. This then was the state of me- 
chanical wool carding in England in the 1790's as two 
experienced wool manufacturers, John and Arthur 
Scholfield, planned their trip to America. 

John and Arthur Scholiicld 

The Scholfields, however, were not to be the first 
to introduce mechanical wool carding into America. 
Several attempts had been made prior to their 
arrival. In East Hartford, Connecticut, "about 1770 
Elisha Pitkin had built a mill on the east side of Main 
Street near the old meeting-house and Hockanum 
Bridge, which was run by water-power, supplied by 
damming the Hockanum River. Here, beside grind- 
ing grain and plaster, was set up the first wool-carding 
machine in the state, and, it is believed, in the coun- 
try." « Samual Mayall in Boston, about 1788 or 1789, 
set up a carding machine operated by horse power. 
In 1791 he moved to Gray, Maine, where he operated 
a shop for wool carding and cloth dressing.' Of the 
machines used at the Hartford Woolen Manufactory, 
organized in 1788, a viewer reported he saw "two 
carding-engines, working by water, of a very inferior 
construction." They were further described as having 
"two large center cylinders in each, with two doffers, 

' This was no great disadvantage at this time, as wool was 
still being spun on the spinning wheel. The mechanical spin- 
ning of woolen yarns was an obstinate problem that was not 
solved until 1815-1820. It then was necessary to piece these 
24-incli slivers together before they could be spun until 1826, 
when a device for the doffing of carded wool in a continuous 
sliver was perfected by an American, John Goukling, and 
patented by him. 

'A. P. Pitkin, The Pitkin Jamily of America, Hartford, 1887, 
p. 75. 

' From a letter written in 1889 by Mayall's .son; A. H. Cole, 
The American wool manufacture, vol. 1 , Cambridge, 1 926, p. 90. 

and only two working cylinders, of the breadth of 
bare sixteen inches, said to be invented by some 
person there." ' But these were isolated examples; 
most of the woolen mills of this period were like the 
one built in 1792 by John Manning in Ipswich, 
Massachusetts, where all the work of carding, spin- 
ning, and weaving was still performed by hand. 

The Scholfields' knowledgeof mechanical wool-proc- 
essing was to find a welcome reception in this young 
nation now struggling for economic independence. The 
exact reason for their decision to embark for America 
is unknown. However, it may well be that they, like 
Samuel Slater* some three years earlier, had learned of 
the bounties being offered by several state legislatures 
for the successful introduction of new textile machines. 

Both John and Arthur were experienced in the 
manufacture of woolens. They were the sons of a 
clothier (during the 18th century, a person who per- 
formed the several operations in finishing cloth) and 
had been apprenticed to the trade. .Arthur was 36 
and a bachelor; John, a little younger, was married 
and had six children. Arthur and John, with his 
family, sailed from Liverpool in March 1793 and 
arrived in Boston some two months later. Upon 
arrival, their immediate concern was to find a dwelling 
place for John's family. Finally they were accom- 
modated by Jedediah Morse, well-known author of 
Morse's geography and gazetteer, in a lodging in Charles- 
town, near Bunker Hill. In less than a month John 
began to build a spinning jenny and a hand loom, 
and soon the Scholfields started to produce woolen 
cloth. The two brothers were joined in the venture 
by John .Shaw, a spinner and weaver who had mi- 
grated from England with them. Morse, being much 
impressed with some of the broadcloth they ])ro- 
duced, was especially interested to find that John 
and Arthur understood the actual construction of the 
textile machines. Morse immediately recommended 
the Scholfields to some wealthy persons of Xewbury- 
port (see fig. 7), who were interested in sponsoring 
a new textile mill. 

* From a report of the visit of Henry Wansey in 1794, cited 
by VV. R. Bagnall, The textile industries of the United Stales, 
Cambridge, 1893, p. 107. 

" Slater introduced the Arkwright system of carding and 
spinning cotton into America in 1790. Bringing neither plans 
nor models witli him from which to build tlie machines, he 
relied instead on his detailed knowledge of their construction. 
England prohibited the export of textile machines, models, and 
plans, and even attempted to prevent skilled artisans from 
leaving tlie country. George S. White, Memoir of Samuel Slater, 
Philadelphia, 1836, pp. 37 and 71. 












Figure 8. — Cross-Section of a Scholfield Wool-Carding Machine. The wool was fed 
into the machine from a moving apron, locked in by a pair of rollers, and passed from the 
taker-in roller to the angle stripper. This latter roller transferred the wool on to the main 
cylinder and acted as a stripper for the first worker roller. After passing through two more 
workers and strippers, the wool was prepared for leaving the main cylinder by the fancy, a 
roller with longer wire teeth set to reach into the card clothing of the large cylinder. Then 
the doflTer roller picked up the carded fibers from the main cylinder in 4-inch widths the length 
of the roller. These sections were freed by the comb plale, passed between the fluted wooden 
cylinder and an under board, where they were converted into slivers, and deposited into a 
small wooden trough. 

The Newburyport Woolen Manufactory 

A Newburyport philanthropist, Timothy Dexter, 
contributed the use of his stable. There, beginning in 
December 1793, the Scholfields built a 24-inch, single- 
cylinder, wool-carding machine. They coinplcted it 
early in 1794, the first Scholfield wool-carding 
machine in America. The group was so impressed 
that they organized the Newburyport Woolen Manu- 
factory. .\rthur was hired as over.scer of the carding 
and John as overseer of the weaving and also as com- 
pany agent for the purchase of raw wool. A site was 
chosen on the Parker River in Byfield Parish, New- 
bury, where a building 100 feet long, about half as 
wide, and three stories high was constructed. To the 
new factory were moved the first carding machine, 
two double-carding machines, as well as spinning, 
weaving and fulling machines. The carding ma- 
chines were built by Messrs. Standring, Armstrong, 
and Guppy, under the Scholfields' immediate direc- 
tion. All the machinery with the exception of the 
looms was run l^y waterpower; the weaving was done 

by hand. The enterprise was in full operation 
by 1795. 

John and Arthur Scholfield (and John's ll-year-old 
son, James) worked at the Byfield factory for several 
y-ears. During a wool-buying trip to Connecticut in 
1798, John observed a valuable waterpower site at the 
mouth of the Oxoboxo River, in the town (i. e., town- 
ship) of Montville, Connecticut. Here, the brothers 
decided, would be a good place to set up their own 
mill, and on April 19, 1799, they signed a 14-year 
lease for the water site, a dwelling house, a shop, and 
17 acres of land. As soon as arrangements could be 
completed, Arthur, John, and the lattcr's family left 
for Montville. 

The Scholfields quite probably did not take any of 
the textile machinery from the Byfield factory with 
them to Connecticut — first because the machines were 
built while the brothers were under liirc and so were 
the property of the sponsors, and second because their 
knowledge of how to build the machines would have 
made it unnecessary to incur the inconvenience and 


Figure y. — In thi; Coi.i.f.ction of the Hk.nrv Ford, Dearborn, Michigan, Is liiis 
Original Scholfield Wool-Carding Machine of the early iglh century. (Photo courtesy of 
the Henry Ford Museum.) 

expense of transporting machines llu- hunclnd odd 
miles to Montvillc. However, John Scholficld's sons 
reported '" that they had taken a carding engine with 
them when they moved to Connecticut in 1799 and 
had later transferred it to a factory in Stonington. 
The sons claimed that the frame, cylinders, and lags 
of the machine were made of mahogany and that it 
had originally been imported from England. How- 
ever, it would have been most uncommon for a textile 
machine, even an English one, to have been con- 

'" R. C. Taft, Some notes upon the introduction of the woolen manu- 
faetuie into the United Slates, Providence, 1882, pp. 17-18. The 
Scholfield sons, of whom three were still living in the 1880's, 
were quite elderly at the time Taft talked to them; only James, 
aged 98, would have been able to remember the Connecticut 

striictcd of mahogany; and having built successful 
carding machines, the men at Byfield would have 
found it unnecessary to attempt the virtually impos- 
sible feat of importing an English one. If it ever 
existed and was taken to Connecticut , therefore, this 
machine was probably not a carding machine manu- 
factured by the Scholfields. It is more probable that 
the first Scholfield carding machine remained in the 
Byfield mill as the property of the Newburyport 
Woolen Manufactory. 

During the next half century, this mill was held by 
a number of individuals. \Villiam Barllett and Moses 
Brown, two of the leading stockholders of the com- 
pany, sold it in 1804 to John Lees, the English over- 
seer who succeeded the Scholfields, and he continued 
to operate it for about 20 years. On .August 24, 1824, 



Figure I o. — An Original Scholfield Wool-Carding Machi.nk ai Oi.u .Sii kiikiui.l \ illai.l, 
Sturbridge, Massachusetts. It is now run by electricity. {Pholo courtesy of Old Sturbridge Village.) 

tlic mill was purchased at a Sheriff's sale by Gorham 
Parsons, who sold a part interest to Paul Moody, a 
machinist from the textile town of Lowell. Moody 
operated the mill for the next 5 years and at his death 
in 1831 his heirs sold their interest back to Parsons. 
In 1832 it was leased for 7 years by William N. 
Cleveland and Solomon Wilde under the name of 
William N. Cleveland & Co. Following the expira- 
tion of the lease in 1839, a portion of the mill was 
occupied for 3 or 4 years by Enoch Pearson, believed 
to have been a descendant of the John Pearson who 
had been a clothier in Rowley in 1643, and subse- 
quently various industries occupied other portions 
and later the entire building, which burned with all 
its contents on October 29, 1859. 
If the first Scholfield carding machine remained a 

part of the property, therefore it must have been lost 
in that fire. However, the Scholfields' importance to 
American wool manufacture was not contingent on 
the building of one successful carding machine, re- 
gardless of whether it was the first. It was the change 
in the scope of their business ventures after their move 
to Connecticut that synonymized the name of Schol- 
field with mechanical wool carding in America. 

John and Arthur had built their woolen mill at 
Uncasville, a village in the town of Montville, and 
there Arthur remained with his brother until 1801. 
when he married, sold his interest to John, and moved 
to Pittsfield, Massachusetts. John and his sons con- 
tinued to operate the mill until 1806, when difficulties 
over water privileges spurred him to purchase prop- 
erty in Stonington, Connecticut, where he built a 



new mill containing two double-cylinder carding 
machines." In 1813, leaving one son in charge at 
Stonington, John returned to Montville and pur- 
chased another factory and water privileges. He con- 
tinued in the woolen manufacture until his death in 

Arthur, soon after arriving in Piltsficld, constructed 
a carding machine and opened a Piltsficld mill. The 
following advertisement appeared in the Pittsfield Sun, 
November 2, 1801: 

Arthur Scholfield respectfully informs the inhabitants 
of Pittsfield and the neighboring towns, that he has a 
carding-machine half a mile west of the meeting-house, 
where they may have their wool carded into rolls for 
1 2)2 cents per pound; mixed i^'i cents per pound. If 
they find the grease, and pick and grease it, it will be 10 
cents per pound, and 12,'i cents mixed. They are requested 
to send their wool in sheets as they will serve to bind up the 
rolls when done. .Mso a small ainouiu of woolens for sale. 

The people around Pittsfield soon realized that the 
mechanically carded wool was not only much easier 
to spin but enabled them to produce twice as much 
yarn from the same amount of wool. /Mthough many 
brought their wool to be carded at his factory, Arthur 
w^as not without problems. These were evident in 
his advertisement of May 1802, in which he staled 
that if the wool was not properly "sorted, clipped, and 
cleansed" he would charge an extra penny yx"r pound. 
He also added that he would issue no credit. Shortly 
after this, recognizing the need for additional carding 
machines in other localities, Arthur Sciiolfield under- 
took the work of manufacturing such machines for 
sale. Through this venture he was to spread his 
knowledge of mechanical wool carding throughout 
the country. 

The Scholfield Machines 

The first record of Arthur's sale of carding machines 
appeared in the Pittsfield Sun in September 1803. 
The next year, in May 1804, his advertisement in- 
formed the readers that A. Scholfield continued to 
card wool, and also that: 

He has carding-machines for sale, built under his im- 
mediate inspection, upon a new and improved plan, which 
he is determined to sell on the most liberal terms, and will 
give drafts and other instructions to those who wish to build 
for themselves; and cautions all whom it may concern to 

beware how they arc imposed upon by uninformed speculat- 
ing companies, who demand more than twice as much for 
machines as they are really worth. 

Scholfield must ha\e felt that some of his competitors 
were charging much more for their carding machines 
than they were worth. .Mso, others were producing 
inferior machines that did not card the wool i^roperly. 
Both factors encouraged .\rthur to continue the com- 
mercial production of wool-carding machines. In 
April 1805 he again advertised: 

Good news for farmers, only eight cents per pound for 
picking, greasing, and carding white wool, and twelve 
and a half cents for mixed. For sale. Double Carding- 
machines, upon a new and improved plan, good and cheap. 

And in 1806: 

Double carding machines, made and sold by A. .Scholfield 
for S253 each, without the cards, or $400 including the cards. 
Picking machines at $30 each. Wool carded on the same 
terms as last year, viz.: eight cents per pound for white, 
and twelve and a half cents for mixed, no credit given. 

With both carpenters and machinists working under 
his direction, he soon abandoned completely the 
carding of wool and devoted his full time to produc- 
ing carding machines. An advertisement in the Pitts- 
field Sun shows Alexander and Elisha Ely providing 
carding service there with a Scholfield machine in 
1806. Scholfield machines were also set up in Massa- 
chusetts at Bethuel Baker, Jr., & Co. in Lanesborough 
in 1805, at Walker & Worthington in Lenox, at 
Curtis's Mills in Stockbridge, at Reuben Judd & Co. 
in Williamstown, in Lee at the falls near the forge, at 
Bairds" Mills in Bethlehem in 1806, and by John Hart 
in Cheshire in 1807. Subsequently many more 
Scholfield machines were set up in many other places 
as far away as Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1809 
and Mason Village, New Hampshire, in about 1810. 
One of the difficulties that Arthur encountered in 
building these early machines was in cutting the 
comb plates that freed the carded fleece from the 
cylinder. These ]ilates had to be prepared by hand, 
the teeth being cut and filed one by one. In 1814 
James Standring, an old frieitd and co-worker, 
smuggled into this country a "teeth-cutting machine," 
which he had procured on a trip to England.'^ Stan- 
dring kept the machine closely guarded, permitting 

" There is no record of the carding machine made of ma- 
hogany which John's sons reported had been transferred to the 
Stonington mill. 

'- This is probably the iiiachiiic that gave rise to stories of 
a carding machine having been smuggled from England during 
the early Byfield days. J. E. A. Smith, Thi: hislory of Pilhfietd, 
Massachusetts, Jrom the year 7S00 to the year 1876, Springfield, 
1876, p. 167. 



only Scholficld and one other friend to sec it. Stan- 
dring used his machine to make new saws of all 
descriptions and to re-cut old ones as well as to 
prepare comb plates for the carding machines. But 
in spite of this new simplified method of producing 
comb plates Scholfield's business did not flourish, 
for the tremendous influx of foreign fabrics after the 
War of 1812 greatly damaged the domestic textile 
industries, including the manufacture of carding 

By 1818 Scholfield's friends had persuaded him to 
apply to Congress for relief. To his brother John on 
April 20, 1818, he wrote: 

... I have been advised by my friends to apply to 
Congress by a petition as we were the first that introduced 
the woolen Business by Machinery in this country and should 
that plan be adopted I have but little hopes of success but 
the>' say if it does no good it \vont doo an\- harm but at any 
rate I should like your opinion and advice about it. . . . 

Apparently John felt the plan would not succeed, 
for on the following December 17 Arthur wrote 
him again: 

. . . With regard to appKing to Congress I have given 
that up for I am of your opinion that it won't succeed what 
gave me some hopes I was advis'd to it by a member of the 
Senet who is a very influential man in Congress but he is now' 
out and I tliink tis best to drop it. . . . 

Arthur never applied to Congress for the recognition 
his contemporaries felt he deserved." 

Several changes in the construction of wool-carding 
machines took place during this period. As early as 
1816 John Scholficld, Jr., was reported to have in his 
mill in Jcwctl City, Connecticut, a double-cylinder 
carding machine 3 feet wide. And in 1822 a Worcester, 
Massachusetts, machine maker advertised that he 
was "constructing carding machines entirely of iron." '* 
Although a few of these iron carding machines were 
sold, they did not tjccome common until 50 years 

There is no record that Arthur Scholficld manu- 
factured carding machines of a width greater than 
24 inches, or entirely of iron. However, little is known 
of his last business years except that he remained in 
Pittsfield until his death, March 27, 1827. 

Only three wool-carding machines attributed to 
the hands of the Scholfields are known to exist today. 
All are 24-inch, single-cylinder carding machines of 
the same general description (see fig. 8). They differ 
only in minor respects that probably result from sub- 
sequent changes and additions. One (fig. 9), now 
located in the Plymouth Carding House, at Greenfield 
\'illage. Dearborn, Michigan, was discovered in Ware, 
Massachusetts. Another (fig. 10), now at Old Stur- 
bridge Milage, Sturbridge, Massachusetts,** was 
uncovered in a barn in northern New Hampshire. 
The third (fig. 1), is in the U. S. National Museum 
in the collection of the Division of Textiles. 

Both it and the Dearborn machine have in former 
times been described as "the original Scholficld 
woolen card." It is a romantic but unsubstantiated 
idea that either of these is the first Scholficld carding 
machine set up in the Byfield factory in 1794. The 
author's opinion is that all three were built by Arthur 
Scholficld during hisyearsin the Pittsfield factory. Ex- 
amination of the National Museum machine supports 
this opinion. The woods used are all native to the 
New England region. The frame, the large cylinder 
and the roller called the fancy are constructed of 
eastern white pine (the Sturbridge machine is also 
constructed principally of pine). The joints of the 
main frame are mortised and tenoned. At the 
doffing end the main frame and cross supports are 
numbered and matched, I to ini, and at the feed end 
they are numbered \' to V'HI but were mis-matched 
in the original assembly. Further rigidity is achieved 
by means of hand-forged jag screws. The arch of the 
frame is birch and llie arch arm maple. The 14-inch 
doflfcr roller is made of chestnut.'" The iron shafts are 
square and turned down at the bearings. The worker 
rollers are fitted with sprockets and turned by a hand- 
forged chain. The comb plate, stamped "Stand- 
ring," is hand filed, and is undoubtedly one of those 
made Ix-fore the "teeth-cutting machine" was 
smuggled from England, for although one-third of the 
plate is quite regular, the size and pitch of the teeth 
in the remaining two-thirds arc irregtilar. Part of 
this irregularity might be explained as having been 
caused by the hand-sharpening of a plate originally 
cut by machine, but the teeth in one 2-inch span not 

" U. S. 15th Congress, 1st and 2nd sessions, The debatrs and 
pTOCfeJings in the Congress, vols, for 1817-1819 (2). 

'* Worcester Spy, July 10, 1822. 

" A natural delay. .Mthough the cylinders and llic card 
clothing wore out and had to be replaced, the heavy wooden 
frames of the early machines remained long in serviceable 

" Once again in use, it is now powered by electricity. A 
pound of slivers from it (about 260) may be purchased for S3.00. 

" The author is indebted to William N. Watkins, U. S. 
National Xfuseum Curator of .■\griculture and Wood Products, 
Smithsonian Institution, for the identification of Uic woods in 
the specimen. 


only vary in size but have a pitch that would have been 
impossible to produce after the original plate had 
been made.'* 

There is no doubt that this carding machine was 
made by Arthur Scholfield, or under his immediate 
supervision, sometime between 1803 and 1814. It 
may well be one of the machines sent to southern New 
Hampshire in 1809 or 1810, as it is known to have 
been run in Nashua and JcfTrcy, New Hampshire, in 
the 1820's and 1830's, after which it was run by James 
Townsend in Marlboro, New Hampshire, from 1837 
until 1890, when it was exhibited at the Mechanics 
Fair in Boston. Mr. Rufus S. Frost purchased the 
machine and owned it until his death in 1897. When 
the Frost estate was settled, the old Scholfield wool- 

" The author is indebted to Mr. Don Berkebile of the 
Smithsonian's U. S. National Xfuseum staff for his examination 
of the metal tcctli on the comb plate of this machine. 

carding machine was purchased by the Davis & 
Furber Machine Co., by which in 1954 it was pre- 
sented to the National Museum. 

The disappearance of the original Scholfield carding 
machine is regrettable, but fortunately the Scholfields' 
importance to the American woolen industry does not 
depend on their having produced this one machine. 
These brothers, arriving here at a critical time in our 
nation's history, made important contributions to our 
economic and to our technological progress — John by 
his mill operations, Arthur by his ultimate work of 
constructing wool-carding machines for sale. Of these 
two aspects, it is the contribution of Arthur that has 
had the more far-reaching effect, for he spread his 
e.\pert knowledge of mechanical wool carding, in the 
form of machines, throughout the New England 
woolen centers. His machines now stand as monu- 
ments to the work of both. 



Contributions from 
The Museum of History and Technology: 

Paper 2 

John Deere's Steel Plow 
Edward C. Ko/da/l 







By Edward C. Kendall 


[ohn Deere in 1837 invented a plow that could be used 
successftdly in the sticky, root-filled soil of the pn/irie. 
It tvas called a steel plow. Actually, it appears that 
only the cutting edge, the share, on the first Deere plows 
ivas steel. The moldboard was smoothly ground 
ivrought iron. 

Deere' s invention succeeded because, as the durable 
steel share of the plow cut through the heavy earth, the 
sticky soil could find no place to cling on its polished 

L ihc 19th century soon encountered the prairie 
lands of what we now call the Middle West. The 
dark fertile soils promised groat rewards to the farm- 
ers settling in these regions, but also posed certain 
problems. First was the breaking of the tough 
prairie sod. The naturalist John Muir descrifjes the 
conditions facing prairie farmers when he was a boy 
in the early 1850's as he tells of the use of the big 
prairie-breaking plows in the following words: ' 

They were used only for the first ploughing, in breaking 
up the wild sod woven into a lough mass, chiefly by the 
cord-like roots of perennial grasses, reinforced by the tap 
roots of oak and hickory bushes, called "grubs," some of 
which were more than a century old and four or five inches 
in diameter. ... If in good trim, the plough cut through 
and turned over these grubs as if the century-old wood were 
soft like the flesh of carrots and turnips; but if not in good 
trim the grubs promptly tossed the plough out of the 

The second and greater problem was that the richer 
lands of the prairie bottoms, after a few years of con- 
tinuous cultivation, became so sticky that they clogged 
the moldboards of the plows. Clogging was such a 

factor in ]3rairie plowing that farmers in these regions 
carried a wooden paddle solely for cleaning off the 
moldboard, a task which had to be repeated so fre- 
cjuently that it seriously interfered with plowing 
efliciency. It seems probable that by the 1830's 
blacksmiths in the prairie covmtry were beginning to 
solve the problem of continuous cultivation of sticky 
I)rairie soil by nailing strips of saw steel to the face of 
wooden moldboard of the traditional plows. Figure 1 
is a photograph of an 18th century New England plow 
in the collection of the U. S. National Museum. This 
is one type of plow which was brought west by the 
settlers. It contributed to the development of the 
prairie breaker shown in iimu-e 2. The first plow on 
record with strips of steel on the moldboard is attrib- 
uted to John Lane in Chicago in 1833." Steel 
presented a smoother surface which shed the sticky 
loam better than the conventional wooden moldboards 
covered with wrought iron, or the cast iron mold- 
boards of the newer factory-made plows then coming 
into use. 

It is generally accepted as historical fact that John 
Deere made his first steel plow in 1837 at Grand 
Detoin-, Illinois. The details of the construction of 

■John Muir (1838-1914), Tlic story nj my boyhood and youth, 
Boston, 1913, pp. 227, 228. 

- R. L. .-\iclrcy, American agricultural implements, Chicago, 1894 
p. 14. 



The Author: 

Edivard C. Kendall is curator of 
agriculture, Museum of History and Technology , 
in the Smithsonian Institution' s United States 
National Museum. 

this plow have been variously given by different 
writers. Ardrey ' and Davidson ^ describe Deere's 
original plow as having a wooden moldboard covered 
with strips of steel cut from a saw, in the manner of 
the John Lane plow. 

In recent years the 1837 Deere plow has been 
pictured quite differently. This has apparently come 
about as the result of the discovery of an old plow 
identified as one made by John Deere at Grand 

plows manufactured by Deere in the 1840's.' The 
Company states that according to its records, this 
was one of three plows made by Deere in 1838 and 
that it was probably substantially identical with the 
first one made in 1837/' It may be difficult to prove 
that the Museum's specimen was made in 1838, but 
a comparison of this plow (fig. 7) with the 1847 mold- 
board (fig. .5) and the 1855 plow (fig. 6) suggests 
that the Museum's plow is the earliest of the three, 
since there is particularly evident an evolution of the 
shape of the moldl)oard from a simple, almost crude 
form to a more sophisticated shape. 


Writers of the 20th century describing the making 
of the first John Deere steel plow have in mind the 

1 Iglin- 1. .M \\ i.M.l AM) .MKliM. l'l-iM\ . .\lllJ-icjl li I .1 ;> 1 I IS 1 . (.Willi i.nrs.ii 

into heavy, broad share; \vooden moldboard covered with iron strips. (Cat. 
no. Fiogi; Smithsonian photo 13214.) 

Detour in 1838 and sold to Joseph Brierton from 
whose farm it was obtained in 1901 by the maker's 
son, Charles H. Deere. He brought it to the office 
of Deere & Company at Molinc, Illinois, for preser- 
vation and display. This plow is shown in figures 7 
and 9. In 1938 Deere & Company presented it to 
the U. S. National Museum, where it is on display. 
It can be seen that the moldboard is made of one 
curved diamond-shaped metal slab. This plow 
bottom conforms to the description of the "diamond" 

^ Ibid., p. 16. 

<J. B. Davidson, "Tillage machinery," in L. H. Bailey's 
Cyclopedia of American agriculture. New York, 1907, vol. 1, p. 389. 


1838 plow. One" has John Deere pondering the 
local plowing problem and getting an idea from the 
polished surface of a broken steel mill saw. .\nolher * 
claims that Leonard Andrus, the founder and leading 
figure of Grand Detour and part owner of the sawmill, 

' Leo Rogin, The inlroduclion oj Jnrni muciiiiiciy in lis n-IMion to 
the productivity oj tabor in the agriculture of the United States during 
the nineteenth century. Berkeley, 1931, p. 33. 

' U. S. National Museum records under accession 148904. 

' Neil M. Clark, John Deere, Molinc, 1937, pp. 34, 35. 

'Stewart H. Holbrook, .Machines 0/ plenty, New York, 1955, 
pp. 178, 179. To an inquiry by this author, Mr. Holbrook 
replied that most if not all of the material about .Vndrus came 
from the files of the J. I. Case Company. 


conceived ilie design of the plow and employed 
Deere, tlie blacksmith newly arri\ed from Vermont, 
to build it. This idea may have originated with and 
was certainly promoted by the late Fred A. Wirt, as 
adveriisins; manastcr of the J. I. Case Company. It 
is dillicuh, at this distance, to determine the parts 
played at the beginning by Deere and Andrus. 

The earliest existing partnership agreement involv- 
ing Andrus and Deere is dated March 20, 1843." The 
existing copy is unsigned, but its conditions are the 
same as those in the agreements executed during the 
next few years. It began by stating that Deere and 
Andrus had agreed "to become copartners together 

which brought in a third partner, Horace Paine, 
described the business as "the art and trade of Black- 
smithing Plough Making Iron Castings and all things 
thereto belonging . . ." and stated that the co- 
partnership should be conducted "under the name 
and firm of L. Andrus and Co." The third agree- 
ment, dated October 20, 1846, in which another man 
appeared in place of Paine, gave the name of the 
firm as Andrus, Deere, and Lathrop." This carried 
an addendum dated June 22, 1847, in thich Andrus 
and Deere bought out Lathrop's interest in the 
business and agreed to continue under the name of 
Andrus and Deere. This is the only mention of the 
firm of Andrus and Deere. It could only have lasted 
a few months because it was in 1847 that Deere moved 
Moline and established his plow factory there. 

Figure 2. — Large Pr.-mrie-Breakino Plow, MiD-igra Centirv. \\'heels 
undernealii tlic beam regulate the depth of plowing; large wheel runs in the 
furrow, small wheel on the land. The colter is braced at ihe bottom as well 
as at the top. The share cuts a broad, shallow strip of sod which the long, 
gently cun'ing moldboard turns over unbroken. 

in the art and trade of Blacksmithing, ploughmaking 
and all things thereto belonging at the said Grand 
Detour, and all other business that the said parties 
may hereafter deem necessary for their mutual 
interest and benefit . . ." One of the terms was that 
the copartnership should continue from the date of 
the agreement "under the name and firm of Leonard 
A second agreement dated October 26, 1844,'" 

" I'liotographic copies of partnership agreements between 
Andrus, Dccre, and others arc in U. S. National Museum 
records under accessioi' 

'" Ibid. 

These agreements suggest that Leonard .\ndrus was 
the capitalist of the young community of Grand 
Detour, as well as its founder. The dominance of the 
name Andrus tends to back up the opinion which 
holds that Andrus was the leading figure in the 
development of the successful prairie plow. On the 
other hand, the general tone of the agreements 
suggests that two or more people were participating 
in an enterprise in which each contributed to the busi- 
ness and shared in the results. Deere contributed his 
plow and his blacksmith shop, tools, and outbuildings; 

■1 Ibid. 



Figure 3. — Reconstructions oi- John Deere's 1837 
Plow. For a discussion of the position and attachment 
of the handles see p. 24. (Deere & Company photo.) 

Andrns contributed money and business experi- 
ence. There is no indication that they were formally 
associated prior to the agreement of March 20, 1843. 
An advertisement (it is quoted later) dated February 
3, 1843, and appearing in the March 10, 1843, issue 
of the Rock River Register, carries an announcement by 
John Deere that he is ready to fill orders for plows, 
which he then describes. There is no mention of 
Andrus or of an Andrus and Deere firm. I am in- 
clined by the evidence to the view that Deere worked 
out his plow by himself, began to manufacture it in 
small numbers, needed money to enlarge and expand 
his operations, and went to the logical source of capital 
in the community, Leonard Andrus. 

In support of this vie^\• I quote a statement by Mr. 
Burton F. Peek '" who has spent most of his life in 
Deere & Company and who may now be the only 
person living who knew John Deere: 

Andrus removed to Grand de Tour from some place in 
New York [Rochester, though originally from Vermont]. 
Some years later John Deere came along from Rutland, 
Vermont leaving his family behind him. Whether Deere 
ever heard of Andrus or Andrus of Deere no one knows. 

Having decided to remain in Grand de Tour, Deere sent 
for his family asking my paternal grandfather, William Peek, 
to bring them and also the Peek family out to Grand de 
Tour. 'Fhis was done via covered wagon the journcx^ 
occupying some si.\ weeks. My father, Henry C. Peek, 
was then an infant age six weeks and Charles Deere, the 
son of John, an infant of about the same age. Of course 
these infants came along sleeping in the feed box of the 
wagon. My grandfather "took up land'" adjacent to 
Grand de Tour and John Deere continued in the manu- 
facturing business. 

Incidentally, John Deere and William Peek were brothers- 
in-law having married sisters and what I have said, and 
much more that I might say to you, is based upon what I 
have been told by my grandfather, by John Deere and by 
others who had a part in the early history of the company. 
So far as I know, I am the only living person who ever knew 
or saw John Deere. . . . 

... I joined the Deere Company on October i, 1888, 
at the age of 16 and retired on the 28th of .\pril. 1956 — 
nearly 68 years. C. H. Deere was my great friend and bene- 
factor. I was educated at his expense as a lawyer and 
practiced for thirteen years. During this time I was his 
pei-sonal attorney, I drew his will, was made trustee there- 
under, and probably was more intimate with him than any 
living person. I have seen and read the manuscript of an 
early history of the company which he wrote, but never 
published and there was nothing in it to indicate that .Andrus 
had any part in the manufacture of the first successful steel 
plow and it is my firm belief that he had no part other than 
perhaps a friendly interest in it. 


Most writers describe Deere cutting a diamond- 
shaped piece out of a broken steel mill saw. There is 
usually no further identification of the type of saw 
beyond the statement that it came from the Andrus 
sawmill. Neil Clark, author of a brief biography of 
John Deere, states that the diamond-shaped piece 
was cut out of a circular saw.'^ There is no evidence 
given to support this. There are some powerful argu- 
ments against it. The circular saw, especially of the 
larger size, was probably not very common in .\merica 
in the 1830's. Although an English patent for a 
circular saw was issued in 1777 the first circular saw 
in America is attributed to Benjamin Cuiumins of 
Bentonsvillc, New York, about 1814.'' 

In a small, new, pioneering comnuuui\ u stiins 
unlikely that the local sawmill would have been 
equipped with the newer circular saw rather than the 
familiar up and down saw which remained in use 

'2 Letter from Burton F. Peck to M. L. Putnam, December 
18, 1957, in U. S. National Museum records under accession 



13 Clark, op. cit. (footnote 7), p. 34. 

'< E. H. Knight, American mechanical dictionan; Boston, 1884, 
vol. 3, p. 2033. 


throughout the 19th century and, in places, well into 
the 20th century. The up and down saw was a 
broad strip of iron or steel with large teeth in one 
edge. Driven by water power it slowly cut large logs 
into boards. It is doubtful that the circular saws of 
that period were large enough for this kind of mill 
work. The second argument is the shape of the mold- 

Figure 4. — How Deere Probably Cut and Bent 
THE Flat Plate of his 1 838 plow 10 form the mold- 
board and landsidc. Because of the shape of the 
moldboard it became known as the diamond plow. 

board itself. The photograph of the 1838 plow in 
figure 7 shows that the shape of the moldboard is 
unconventional. It is essentially a parallelogram 
curved to present a concave surface to the furrow 
slice and thus to make a simple, small but workable 
plow. A parallelogram or diamond would be an 

easy shape to cut out of a mill saw with the teeth 
removed. The moldboard on the 1838 plow is from 
.228 to .238 inches thick and its width is 12 inches. 
These dimensions approximate those given in an 
1897 Disston catalog '^ which describes mulay saws, 
a type of mill saw, from 10 to 12 inches wide and 
from 4 to 9 gauge. Gauge number 4 is the thickest 
and is .238 inches. 

Examination of the 1838 plow suggests that Deere 
cui the moldboard and landside as one piece, which 

Figure 5. — Moldboard of 1847 John Df.ere Plow, 
showing how the diamond shape of the orighial design 
has been slightly modified. (Deere & Company photo 

was then heated and bent to the desired form. The 
pattern of this piece is shown in figure 4. Some addi- 
tional metal appears to be forged into the sharp bend 
at the junction of the moldboard and the landside 
apparently to strengthen this part, which may have 
begun to open during the bending. If, however, 
Deere had used a large circular saw with plenty of 
room for cutting out a moldboard of the usual shape 
and size, it seems likely that he would have made a 
plow of more conventional appearance. In any 
event his moldi)oard of one jointlcss piece of polished 
metal would scour better than one of wood covered 
with strips of steel since the nailhcads and the joints 
between the strips would provide places for the earth 
to slick. 

" Henry Disston & Sons, Price lisl. Philadelphia, 1897, p. 28. 




A very great majority of writers describing John 
Deere and his plow attribute his fame to his develop- 
ment of a successful steel plow which made cultivation 
of rich prairie soil practical. The emphasis is always 

Figure 6. — The Shape of the 
MoLDBOARD Continued to evolve, 
as illustrated by this 1855 John 
Deere plow. {Deere & Company 
photo 57 1 92-^(4.) 

This raised two C|uestions: Why, and for how long, 
was wrought iron used for the moldboards of the 
Deere plows? Of what material is the moldboard 
of the 1838 plow made? During the first few years, 
when production was very small, there were probably 
enough worn out mill saws available for the relatively 
few plows made. As production increased this source 
must have become inadequate. Ardrey gives the 
following figures for the production of plows by Deere 
and Andrus: '« 1839, 10 plows; 1840, 40 plows; 1841, 
75 plows; 1842, 100 plows; 1843, 400 plows. Ardrey 
states further that "by this time the dilliculiy of obtain- 
ing steel in the quantity and quality needed had 
become a serious obstacle in the way of further 

on the development of a steel moldboard and the 
assumption is that from the 1837 plow onward 
stretched an unbroken line of steel moldboard plows. 
An advertisement for John Deere plows in the March 
10, 1843, issue of the Rock River Register, published 
weekly in Grand Detour, Illinois, gives a detailed 
description, here presented in full: 

John Deere respectfully informs his friends and customers, 
the agricultural community, of this and adjoining counties, 
and dealers in Ploughs, ihat he is now prepared to fill orders 
for the same on presentation. 

The Moldboard of this well, and so favorably known 
PLOUGH, is made of wrought iron, and the share of steel, 
Me of an inch thick, which carries a fine sharp edge. The 
whole face of the moldboard and share is ground smooth, 
so that it scours perfectly bright in any soil, and will not 
choke in the foulest of ground. It will do more work in a 
day. and do it much better and with less labor, to both team 
and holder, than the ordinary ploughs that do not scour, 
and in consefiuencc of the ground being better prepared, 
the agriculturalist obtains a much heavier crop. 

The price of Ploughs, in consequence of hard times, will 
be reduced from last year's prices. Grand Detour, Feb. 
3> ■843- 

developiiieiu." 1 he statement, quoted above, that 
the moldboard was of wrought iron and the statistics 
on production of plows during the 1840's and 1850"s 
belie Ardrey's claim that it was a serious obstacle, nor 
is diere any suggestion in the advertisement diat 
wrought iron was being substituted for steel. 

In 1847 John Deere amicably severed relations with 
the firm of Andrus & Deere and moved to Molinc, 
Illinois, to continue plow manufacturing in a site 
that had better transportation facilities than Grand 
Detour. The new firm produced 700 plows in the 
first year, 1 600 in 1 850, and 1 0,000 in 1 857. '^ Swank '« 
stales that the first slab of cast plow steel e\-er rolled 
in the United States was in 1846 and that it was 
shipped to John Deere of Moline, Illinois. A little 
later he says that it was not until the early 1860"s in 
this country that se\'eral firms succeeded in making 

" Ardrey, op. ctl. (footnote 2), p. K>''- 
i' Ibid., p. 166. 

'** James M, Swank, History 0/ thf tn<iniij<uiurr ir iron m ail 
ages . . . , Philadelphia, 1892, pp. 390, 393. 

PAPER 2: JOHN df.ere's steel prow 


Figure 7.- John Deere's 1838 Piuw. Kicht Side, 
showing large iron staple used to fasten end of right 
handle to the standard. Note remains of wooden pin 
near rear end of plow beam. (Cat. no. Fi 1 11; Smith- 
sonian photo 42639-/I.) 

hiaih siradc crucible cast steel of tinifonn quality as a 
regular product. 

Based on a \isit to Deere".s factory in 1857 the 
Country Gentleman ''' ga\-e the yearly output as 13,400 
plows. It pictured four of sc\en models and stated, 
"these are all made of cast steel, and perfectly polished 
before they are sent out, and are kept bright by use, 
.so that no soil adheres to them." The article then 
gives the tonnages of iron and steel used by the Deere 
factory in a year. They are as follows: 50 tons cast 

'» Country Gentlemen, 1857, vol. 10, p. 129. 

steel, 40 tons German steel. 100 tons Pittsburgh steel, 
75 tons castings, 200 tons wrought iron, 8 tons 
malleable castings in clevises, etc. In addition 
100,000 plow bolts and 200,000 feet of oak plank were 

These figures do not indicate what the different 
parts of the plows were made of but, if approximately 
correct, they do show that more than half the metal 
used was iron rather than steel. Steel accounts for 
190 tons, wrought iron for 200. Although it is con- 
ceivable, under this weight distribution, that the 
shares and moldboards were made of steel while the 
landsides and standards were made of wrought iron, 
other distributions are also possible, and it is cmite 
conceivable that at this period some of the plows had 
steel moldboards while others had wrought-iron ones. 
An analysis of the metal in different parts of an 1855 
John Deere plow, now at the factory in Moline, may 
shed some light on this, but from these figures and 
dates it seems likely that most of John Deere's ]3lows 
during the 1840"s and 1850's had wrought-iron mold- 
boards with steel shares. (It should be borne in mind 
that the poorer grades of steel a\ailable at this time 
were probably no more satisfactory than cast iron as 
far as .scouring clean in sticky soil was concerned.) 

The question of the material in tiie moldboarcl o( the 
1838 plow was answered when a spark-test analysis 
was made of the metal in the moldboarcl and share. 
In this test the color, shape, and pattern of the spark 
bursts produced by a high-speed grinding w heel indi- 
cate the type of iron or steel. Several spots along the 
edges and back surface of the moldboard were tested. 

Figure 8. — Reconstruction of 
Deere's 1838 Plow, right side, 
with handles shown in what is 
believed to be their original posi- 
tion. (Smithsonian photo 42647.) 




No carbon bursts were seen in the spark patterns, 
indicatino; that the material was wrougiit iron. The 
share consists of a piece, wedge shaped in cross section, 
\velded on to the lower, or front, edge of the mold- 
board. This was tested at .several spots along its sharp 
edge, all of which gave a pattern and color indicating 
that the material was medium high carbon steel. 
This test was corroborated by a chemical analysis of 
filings from the moldboard and share in a metal- 
lurgical laboratory. A small trace of carbon was 
found in the moldboard. It may be present as the 
result of contamination from several sources, a likely 
one being the charcoal fire in the forge whc-n it was 
heated for bending and shaping.^" 

These tests agree perfectly with the description in the 
1843 advertisement. It seems, therefore, that Deere's 
success in making plows that worked well in prairie 
bottom lands depended as much on the smooth surface 
he produced by grinding and polishing as on the 
material used. 

The filing of the edge of the moldboard for the 
metallurgical test disclosed that the wrought-iron slab 
consisted of five thin laminations apparently forged 
together but with separations visiijle. The length and 
regularity of the lines of separation seem to preclude 
their being striations resulting from the fiijrous struc- 
ture of wrought iron. This calls into question the 
theory that the moldboard and landside were cut from 
a mill saw, since it hardly seems likely that a saw 
would be made of laminated material. The possi- 
bility exists that the body of the mill saw might have 
been made this way, with a tooth-bearing steel edge 
welded on, but there seems little reason for making a 
saw out of thin laminations. It is also possiiile that 
this laminated iron originally had been intended for 
some other purpose, such as boiler plate, and may have 
been available in rectangular pieces. In making the 
1838 plow Deere followed a pattern (fig. 4), which 
suggests that he cut it out of such a piece. 

-" Rpporls on .spark test by E. A. BattLson, U. S. National 
Museum, and on metallurgical investii;ation by A. H. \alen- 
tine, Metallographic Laboratory of the Bethlelu-in .Steel Com- 
pany's Sparrows Point Plant. 

Figure g. — John Deere's 1838 Plow, Left Side, 
showing details of construction and relationship of 
landside to moldboard. (Cat. no. /''iiii; Smil/isonian 
photo 42639.) 

Since the moldboard of the 1838 plow is of wrought 
iron, and since this plow is thought to be essentially 
identical witii the first one Deere made in 1837, it is 
highly probalole that the 1837 plow also had a 
wrought-iron moldboard, a condition which appears 
to have been the basic pattern for John Deere plows 
until the middle 1850's. 

WHY A "steel" plow 

In view of the facts and the probabilities based 
on them, how is the legend of the John Deere steel 
plow to be explained? There are several likely 
reasons. It is possible that the first plow, in 1837, 
was made from a broken steel mill saw. It is also 
possible that within a few years puddled iron came 
to be used for the moldboards because of the scarcity 
of suitable steel, either in the form of broken mill 
saws or as plates ordered from foundries in America 
(the high price of steel imported from England made 
this an impractical source). However, it seems more 
likely that it became known as a steel plow owing to 
the importance Deere attached to his plows having 
steel shares, as shown in his advertisement in 1843. 
.\ steel share, tougher than cast iron, would hold an 
edge much better than wrought iron, and John 
Muir's description of prairie |)lowing, quoted earlier, 
substantiates the importance of a tough, sharp share, 

Deere's plows, probably distinctive by reason of 
their steel shares, mav have been called "steel"' 



plows, in the regions where tliey were used, to dis- 
tinguish them from the standard wooden plows and 
from the newer cast-iron implements. The term 
"wooden plow" has a similar history. For well over 
2000 years in Europe some plows have been made 
with iron shares and the rest of the structure wood. 
Plows in 18th-century America were made principally 
of wood with iron shares, colters, and clevises, and 
with strips of iron frequently covering the wooden 
moldboard. These implements were called, simply, 
plows of various regional types. Not until the de- 
velopment and spread of the factory-made plows with 
cast-iron moldboards, landsides, and standards did 
the term "wooden plow" come into use to differentiale 
all these plows from the newer ones. .Subsequently 
writers have been led to assume that "wooden plow" 
meant a plow with no iron parts and consequently to 
make unwarranted statements about the priinitive- 
ness of the 1 8th-century implements. 

A second reason for use of the term "steel plow" 
may have developed from the supposition that the 
moldboards of the first John Deere plows were made 
of diamond-shaped sections cut from old mill saws, 
which later writers seem to have assumed were made 
of steel. (It is probable that from the late 1850's on 
Deere plows had steel moldboards.) However, mill 
saws of the early 19th century were not necessarily 
made of steel, which was then relatively expensive. 
I have been told of an old mill saw made of wrought 
iron on which was welded a steel edge that carried 
the teeth. ^' Rees' Cyclopaedia ^^ describes saws as 
being made of either wrought iron or steel, the latter 
being preferable. Therefore, it seems most likely 
that Deere's plows, from his first until the middle 
1850's were made with highly polished wi-ought-iron 
moldboards :incl ■;ii'el shares. 


The remains of the 1838 plow are .shown in figures 
7 and 9. One's curiosity is aroused as to what the 
plow looked like in its original state, complete with 
handles. Several full-scale 3-dimensionaI reconstruc- 
tions and a number of sketches of the 1837 plow have 
been made. The reconstructions all must have been 
based on the remains of the 1838 plow, since they 

2' For this information I am indebted to Mr. E. A. Battison 
of the U. S. National Museum staff. 

52 Abraham Rces, The c)rlopaedia; or universal dictionary oj 
arts, sciences, and literature, Philadelphia, 1810-1842, vol. 33, 
under saw. 

resemble it closely and it is llic onl\- survixing plow 
of this type known. 

Recently I received a photograph (fig. 3, right) 
of a jdIow which has been bo.xed and in storage for 
many years at Deere & Company which may be an 
early Deere plow. As it appears in the ]5hotograph, 
the plow looks unconvincing. The handles are 
fastened by bolls and nuts, a manner uncommon in 
American plow making in the early 19th century. 
The shape of the handles is that of stock handles 
available for small plows and cultivators in such a 
catalog as Belknap's. The plow seems very high and 
weakly braced. There is no logical reason for curving 
the end of the beam down and cutting it off at a 
slant if the handles arc attached in the manner 
shown. The edges of the tenon on the up])er end of 
the standard where it goes through the mortise in 
the beam have been neatly beveled in a manner I 
have never seen before on any other plow. All of 
this leads me to think that this is an early recon- 
struction based on the remains of the 1838 plow 
which it only roughly approximates in pro])ortion 
and design. 

Another of these reconstructions is shown in figure 
3, left. Although superficially like the 1838 plow 
it varies considerably in its {)roportions, in the angular 
relations of its parts, and in other details such as the 
use of iron bolts and nuts in place of wooden pins. 
All these reconstructions agree in one thing. They 
show a plow with handles fastened to both sides of 
the plow beam and standard. 

During an examination of the 1838 plow it occurred 
to me that there was no indication of an attachment 
of a handle on the landside in the same manner as 
on the furrow side. The position and attachment of 
the handle in figure 7 is clearh- indicated by the re- 
mains of a wooden pin in the side of the plow beam 
near the rear end and by the large iron staple, in 
the side of the standard, which must have held the 
tapered lower end of the handle. Figure 8 is a sketch 
showing this handle in position. The landside view of 
this jjIow in figure 9 shows that the pin did not ex- 
tend through the beam nor arc there marks on the 
standard to indicate the position of a siajjle like that 
on the furrow side. The four holes approximately in 
line on the standard and beam show where a piece 
of sheet metal had been nailed to hold the beam and 
standard in about the right position. The outline of 
the sheet metal can be seen on the side of the beam. 
This was removed at the time this examination was 



How was ihc landsidf haiicilc attached? \V. E. 
Bridges of the National Museum suggests that it might 
have been attached to the lower side of the standard 
and the rear end of the plow licam. This seems, be- 
yond doubt, to be correct. The wood has deteriorated 
considerably over the years and the joints are loose, 
Imt, within the limits of the existing structure, the 
plow beam can easily be set in such a position that 
its sloping rear end lines up with the slope of the 
underside of the standard. Furthermore, a long bolt 
runs from the upper part of the moldboard through 
the standard and projects quite far beyond its lower 
surface, as can be seen in figure 7. The end of the 
Ijolt is threaded only part way and it has been neces- 
sary to put a cylindrical metal spacer on it in order 
to draw up the nut snugly. This long bolt must orig- 
inally have passed through the lower end of the 
handle, which, in turn, was fastened to the end of 
the plow beam by a tenon on the end of the beam, 

on the old jjlowsj in the same plane. Symmetrical 
handles branching from both sides of the beam are 
found on cultivators, shovel plows, middle busters, 
and sidehill plows where the moldboard is turned 
alternately to each side. 


The existing evidence, I believe, indicates that: 

1 . The successful prairie plow with a smooth one- 
piccc moldboard and steel share was basically Deerc's 

2. The moldboards of practically all of his plows. 

Figure lo. — -Reconstruction or Deere's 1838 
Plow, left side, showing how left handle is 
believed to have been attached. {Smitltsonian 
bhoto 42637.) 

now broken off, passing through a mortise in the 
handle. This was the common method of fastening 
the handle to the beam. The square hole in the 
plow's iron landside (fig. 7), w'hich at first might seem 
meant for another bolt passing through the lower 
end of the handle at right angles to the long bolt, 
seems too close to the other bolt and to the edges of 
the handle. It may simply be a first try for the bolt 
through the l)ottom of the standard. In this manner 
the handle would have been strongly attached to the 
plow frame and, at the same time, would have ma- 
terially helped to make it rigid by forming one side of 
a triangular structure. Figures 8 and 10 show what 
I believe to be the correct reconstruction of the 1838 
Deere plow along the lines just described and, there- 
fore, the probaljle appearance of the 1837 plow. 

It should also be noted that it was general practice 
in making fixed moldboard plows to have the plow- 
beam, standard, handle, and landside (or sharebeam, 

from 1837 and for aljout 15 years, wore made of 
wrought iron rather than steel. 

3. The success of his plows in the prairie soils de- 
pended on a steel share which held a sharp edge and 
a highly polished moldboard to which the sticky soils 
could not cling. 

4. The importance attached to the steel share led 
to the plows being identified as steel plows. 

5. The correct reconstruction of the 1838 plow, 
and, by inference, the 1837 plow, is shown in figures 
8 and 10, previous reconstructions being wrong 
primarily in the position and attachment of the 

6. The Museum's John Deere plow (Cat. No. 
Fllll), shown in figures 7 and 9, is a very early 
specimen, on the basis of a comparison of it with Deere 
moldboards of 1847 and 1855 and its conformity to 
Deere"s description of his plows in an 1843 advertise- 
ment; and the 1838 date associated with it is plausible. 



Contributions from 
The Museum of History axd Technology: 

Paper 3 

The Beginnings of Cheap Steel 
Philip If. Bishop 






WILLIAM Kelly's air-boiling process 42 



471274—59 3 


Bv Philip W. Bishop 

Other inroitors claimed a part in the inven- 
tioii of the Bessemer process of making steel. Here, 
the contemporary discussion in the technical press 
is re-examined to throw light on the relations of 
these various claimants to the iron and steel industry 
of their time, as having a possible connection with 
the antagonism shown by the ironmasters toward 
Bessemer' s ideas. 

The Author: Philip W. Bishop /s curator of 
arts and manufactures. Museum of History and Tech- 
nology, in the Smithsonian Institution's United 
States National Museum. 

THK DEVELOPMENT of the world's i)rociuctivc re- 
sources during the 19th century, accelerated in 
general by major innovations in the field of power, 
transportation, and irxiiles, was retarded by the 
occurrence of certain bottlenecks. One of these 
affected the flow of suitable and economical raw- 
materials to the machine tool and transportation 
industries: in spite of a rapid growth of iron produc- 
tion, the methods of making steel remained as they 
were in the previous century; and outputs remained 

In the decade 1855-1865, this situation w-as com- 
pletely changed in Great Britain and in Europe 

generally; and when tiie United States emerged from 
the Civil War, that country found itself in a position 
to take advantage of the European innovations and 
to start a [)eriod of growth which, in the next 50 years, 
was to establish lier as the world's largest producer of 

This study reviews the controversy as to the origin 
of the process which, for more than 35 years ' pro- 

' From 1870 through 1907, "Bessemer" production ac- 
counted for not less than 50 percent of United States steel 
production. From 1880 through 1895, 80 percent of all steel 
came from this source: Historical Statistics of the United .States 
1789-1945 (Washington, U. S. Department of Commerce, 
Bureau of the Census, 1949), Table- J. 165-170 at p. 187. 



\idcd the greater part of the stt-i'l production of the 
I'nited States. It concerns four men for whom 
])riority of invention in one or more aspects of the 
])rocess has been claimed. 

The process consists in forcing through molten cast 
iron, held in a vessel called a converter, a stream of 
cold air under pressure. The combination of the 
o.xygen in the air with the silicon and carbon in the 
metal raises the temperature of the latter in a spec- 
tacular way and after "blowing" for a certain period, 
cHminates the carbon from the metal. Since steel of 
various qualities demands the inclusion of from 0.15 
to 1.70 percent of carbon, the blow has to be terini- 
nated before the elimination of the whole carbon 
content; or if the carbon content has been eliminated 
the appropriate percentage of carbon has to be put 
back. This latter operation is carried out by adding 
a precise quantity of manganiferous pig-iron (.spiegel- 
eisen) or ferromanganese, the manganese serving to 
remove the oxygen, which has combined with the 
iron during the blow. 

The controversy which surrounded its do\elo|3inent 
concerned two aspects of the process: The use of the 
cold air blast to raise the temperature of the molten 
metal, and the application of manganese to overcome 
the problem of control of the carbon and oxygen 

Bessemer, who began his experiments in the making 
of iron and steel in 1854, secured his first jjatent in 
Great Britain in January 1855, and was persuaded to 
present information al)out his discovery to a meeting 
of the British Association for the Advancement of 
Science held at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in 
.•\ugust 1856. His title "The Manufacture of Iron 
without Fuel"" was given wide jiublicity in Great 
Britain and in the United States. Among those who 
wrote to the papers to contest Bessemer's theories 
were several claimants to ])riority of invention. 

Two men claimed that they had antici|3ated Bes- 
semer in the invention of a method of treating molten 
metal with air-blasts for the purpose of "purifying" or 
decarbonizing iron. Both were Americans. Joseph 
Gilbert Martien, of Newark, New Jersey, who at the 
time of Bessemer's address was working at the plant 
of the Ebbw \'alc Iron Works, in South Wales, 
secured a provisional patent a few days before Bes- 
semer obtained one of his series of patents for making 
cast steel, a circumstance which provided ammunition 
for those who wished to dispute Bessemer's somewhat 
spectacular claims. William Kelly, an ironmaster ol 
Eddyville, Kentucky, brought into action by an 

P.A,PER j: 


.\inerican report of Bessemer's British A.ssocialion 
paper, opposed the granting of a United States 
patent to Bessemer and substantiated, to the satis- 
faction of the C^ommissioner of Patents, his claim to 
priority in the "air boiling" process. 

A third man, this one a Scot resident in England, 
intervened to claim that he had devised the means 
whereby Martien's and Bessemer's ideas could \x: 
made practical. He was Robert Mushet of Coleford, 
Gloucestershire, a metallurgist and self-appointed 
"sage" of the British iron and steel industry who abo 
was associated with the Ebbw Vale Iron Works as a 
consultant. He, like his American contemporaries, 
has become established in the pui)lic mind as one 
upon whom Henry Bessemer was dependent for the 
origin and success of his process. Since Bessemer was 
the only one of the group to make money from the 
expansion of the steel industry consequent upon the 
introduction of the new technique, the suspicion has 
remained that he cxijloited the inventions of the 
others, if indeed he did not steal them. 

In this study, based largely upon the contemporary 
discussion in the technical press, the relation of the 
four men to each other is re-examined and an attemjjt 
is made to place the controversy of 1855-1865 in 
focus. The necessitv for a reapprai.>al arises from the 
fact that today's references to the origin of Bessemer 
steel ' often contain chronological and other inac- 
curacies arising in many cases from a dependence on 
secondary and sometimes unreliaiile sources. .As a 
result, Kelly's contribution has, perhaps, been over- 
emphasized, with the effect of derogating from the 
work of another .American, .\lexander Lyman Holley, 
who more than any man is entitled to credit for 
establishing Bessemer steel in .\merica.' 

Steel Before the 1850's 

In spite of a rapid increase in the use of machines and 
the overwhelming demand for iron products for the 
expanding railroads, the use of steel had expanded 

-See especially mateiial distributed by the American Iron 
and Steel Institute in connection with its celebration of the 
centennial of Steel: "Steel centennial (19S7), prcia informa- 
tion,"' prepared by Hill and Knowllon. Inc., and released by 
the Institute as of May 1, 1957. 

5 Holley's work is outside the scope of this paper. Belatedly, 
his biography is now beinp written. It can hardly fail to sub- 
stantiate the contention that during his short life (1832-1882) 
Holley, who negotiated the purchase of the .American rights 
to Bessemer's process, also adapted his methods to the .American 
scene and laid a substantial part of the foundation for the 
modern .American steel industry. 


litilf prior lo 185i>. The im-lhoils ol production wen- 
still lari^cly those of a century earlier. Slow prepara- 
tion of the steel by cementation or in cruciljlcs meant 
a disproportionate consumption of fuel and a resulting 
high cost. Production in small ciuantities prevented 
the adoption of steel in uses wltich required large 
initial masses of metal. Steel was. in fact, a luxury 

The work of Reaumur and, especially, of Huntsman, 
whose development of cast steel after 1740 secured an 
international reputation for Sheffield, had established 
the cementation and crucible processes as the primary 
source of cast steel, for nearly 100 years. Josiah 
Marshall Heath's patents of 1839, were the first devel- 
opments in the direction of cheaper steel, his process 
leading to a reduction of from 30 to 40 percent in the 
price of good steel in the Sheffield market. ' Heath's 
secret was the addition to the charge of from 1 to 3 
percent of carburet of manganese ^ as a deoxidizer. 
Heath's failure to word his patent .so as to cover also 
his method of producing carburet of manganese led to 
the efTective breakdown of that patent and to the 
general adoption of his process without payment of 
license or royalty. In sjiile of this reduction in the 
cost of its production, steel remained, until after the 
midpoint of the century, an insignificant item in the 
output of the iron and steel industry, being used prin- 
cipally in the manufacture of cutlery and edge tools. 

The stimulus towards new methods of making steel 
and, indeed, of making new steels came curiously 
enough from outside the established industry, from a 
man who was not an ironmaster — Henry Bessemer. 
The way in which Bes.semcr challenged the trade was 
itself unusual. There are few cases in which a stranger 
to an industry has taken the risk of giving a description 
of a new process in a pul)lic forum like a meeting of the 
British Association for the Advancement of Science. 
He challenged the trade, not only to attack his theories 
but to produce evidence from their own plants that 
they could provide an alternative means of satisfying 
an emergent demand. Whether or not Bessemer is 
entitled to claim priority of invention, one can but 
agree with the ironmaster who said: " "Mr. Bessemer 
has raised such a spirit of en(|uiry throughout . . . the 

' Andrew Ure, Dictionary of arts, manujacturrs and mines. New 
York, 1856, p. 735. 

'.Sec abridgement of British patent 8021 of 1839 quoted by 
James S. Jeans, Steel, London, 1880, p. 28 ff. It is not clear 
that Heath was aware of the precise chemical effect of the use of 
manfianesc in this way. 

« Mining Journal, 1857, vol. 27, p. 465. 

land as nuist Icid lo an improved syslciii ol manu- 

Bessemc-r and his Competitors 

Henry Bessemer (1813-1898), an Englishman of 
French extraction, was the son of a mechanical 
engineer with a special interest in mctalhugy. I lis 
environment and his unusual ability to synthesize his 
ob.servation and experience enabled Bessemer to begin 
a career of invention by registering his first patent at 
the age of 2.S. His active experimenting continued 
uniil his death, although the public record of his 
results ended wiih a patent issued on the day before 
his .seventieth birthday. A total of 117 British 
patents " bear his name, not all of them, by any means, 
successful in the sense of producing a substantial 
income. Curiously, Bessemer's financial stability was 
assured by the success of an invention he did not 
patent. This was a process of making bronze powder 
and gold paint, until the 1830's a secret held in 
Germany. Bessemer's substitute for an expensive 
imported product, in the then state of the patent laws, 
would have failed to give him an adequate reward if 
he had been unable to keep his process secret. To 
assure this reward, he had to design, assemble, and 
organize a plant capable of operation with a minimmn 
of hired labor and with close .security control. The 
fact that he kept the method secret for 40 years, 
suggests that his machinery * (Bessemer describes it as 
virtually automatic in operation) represented an 
appreciation of coordinated design greatly in advance 
of his time. His experience must have directly con- 
tributed to his conception of his steel process not as a 
metallurgical trick but as an industrial process; for 
when the time came, Bessemer patented his discovery 
as a process rather than as a formula. 

In the light of subsequent developments, it is 
necessary to consider Bessemer's attitude toward the 
patent privilege. He describes his secret gold paint 
as an example of "what the public has had to pay for 
not being able to give . . . security to the inventor" 
in a situation where the production of the material 
"could not be identified as having been made by any 
particular form of mechanism.'"* The inability to 
obtain a patent over the method of production meant 
that the disclosure of his formula, necessary for patent 
specification, would openly in\ile competitors, in- 

~ Sir Henry Bessemer, F. R. S., an autobiography, London. 1905, 
p. 332. 
' Ibid., p. 59 fir. 
» Ibid., p. 82. 



chidina; the Germans, to evolve their own teehnic|iies. 
Bessemer coneludes: '" 

Had the invention been paK'nled, it would have become 
public property in fovnieen years from the dale of the 
patent, after which period the public would have been 
able to buy bronze powder at its present [i.e., ca. i8go] 
market i)rice, viz from two shillings and three pence to 
two shillings and nine pence per pound. But this important 
secret was kept for about ihirly-five years and the |)ublic 
had to pay excessively high prices for twenis-one years 
longer than they would have done had the invention become 
public propert)' in fourteen years, as it would have been if 
patented. Even this does not represent all the disad- 
vantages resulting from secret manufacture. While every 
detail of production was a profound secret, there were no 
improvements made by the outside public in any one of the 
machines employed during the whole thirty-five years; 
whereas during the fourteen years, if the invention had been 
patented, there would, in all probability have been many 
improved machines invented and many novel features 
applied to totally different manufactures. 

\\ hile these words, to some extent, were the rational- 
izations of an old man, Bessemer's career showed that 
his philosophy had a practical foundation; and, if 
this was indeed his belief, the cpi.sode explains in 
large measure Bessemer's later insistence on the 
legal niceties of the patent procedure. The effect of 
this will be seen. 

Bessemer's intervention in the field of iron and 
steel was preceded by a period of experiments in the 
manufacture of glass. Here Bessemer claims to have 
made glass for the first time in the open hearth of a 
reverberatory furnace." His work in glass manu- 
facture at least gave him considerable experience in 
the problems of fusion under high temperatures and 
provided some support for his later claim that in 
applying the reverberatory finnace to the manufacture 
of malleable iron as describetl in his first patent of 
January 185.S, he had in some manner anticipated 
the work of C. W. Siemens and F.niil Martin. '- 

'» Ibid., p. 83. 

" Ibi<t., p. 108 ff. 

" Ibid., p. 141. Bessemer's assertion that he had approached 
"within measurable distance" of anticipating the .Siemens- 
Martin process, made in a paper presented at a meeting of the 
American Society of Mechanical Engineers (Transacliom 
nj Ihf American Society of .Mechanical Engineers, 1897, vol. 28, 
p. 459), evoked strong criticism of Be.wmer's lack of generosity 
(ibid., p. 482). One commentator, friendly to Bessemer, put 
it that "Bessemer's relation to the open-hearth process was 
very much like Kelly's to the Besisemer process . . . .Mthough 
he was measurably near to the open-hearth process, he did 
not follow it up and make it a commercial success . . ." 
{ibid., p. 491). 


The general interest in problems of ordnance and 
armor, stimulated by the Crimean War (1854-1856), 
was shared by Bessemer, whose ingenuity soon pro- 
duced a design for a projectile which could provide 
its own rotation when fired from a smooth-bore gun.'"' 
Bessemer's failure to interest the British War Office 
in the idea led him to submit his design to the Emperor 
Napoleon HI. Trials made with the encourageinent 
of the Emperor showed the inadecjuacy of the cast- 
iron guns of the period to deal with the heavier shot; 
and Bessemer was presented with a new problem 
which, with "the open mind which derived from a 
limited kitowlcdgc of the metallurgy of war," he 
attacked with impetuosity. Within three weeks of 
his experiments in France, he had applied for a 
patent for "Iinprovements in the Manufacture of 
Iron and Steel." '^ This covered the fusion of steel 
with pig or cast iron and, though this must be regarded 
as only the first practical step toward the Bessemer 
process,'^ it was his experiments with the furnace 
which provided Bessemer with the idea for his 
later developments. 

These were described in his patent dated October 
17, 1855 (British patent 2321). This patent is signifi- 
cant to the present study because his a[)plication for 
an .Xmcrican patent, based on similar specifications, 
led to the interference of William Kelly and to the 
subsequent denial of the .American patent.'" In 
British patent 2321 Bes.semer proposed to con\ert his 
steel in crucibles, arranged in a suitable furnace and 
each basing a sertical luxere. through which air 
under pressure was forced through the molten metal, 
.^^s Dredge '" points out, Bessemer's association of the 
air blast with the increase in the temperature of the 
metal "showed his appreciation of the end in \iew, 
and the general way of attaining it, though his 
mechanical details were still crude and iinperfect." 
Experiments were continued and several more 
British patents were applied for before Bessemer 
made his appearance Ix'fore the British .Xssociaiion 

'3 British patent 2489, November 24, 1854. 

<* Bessemer, op. cit. (footnote 7), p. 137 He received British 
patent 66. dated January 10, 1855. 

'•'See James W. Dredge, "Henry Bessemer 1813-1898." 
Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1898, 
vol. 19, p. 911. 

'• See U. S. Patent Office, Decision of Commissioner of 
Patents, dated .\pril 13, 1857, in Kelly vs. Bessemer Inter- 
ference. This is further discussed below (p. 42.) 

" Dredge, op. cit. (footnote 15), p. 912. 


-?^»> ' * 

-?^« r f 

I'igurc I. — Bessemer's Design for a Converter, as Shown in I . S Patent 16082. This 
patent, dated November 11, 1856, corresponds with British patent 356. dated February 12, 
1856. The more familiar design of converter appeared first in British patent 578, March i, 
i860. The contrast with Kelly's schematic drawing in Fig. 2 (p. 42) is noticeable. 

on August 13, 1856.'** Bessemer described his first 
converter and its operation in some detail. .\ltliiniL;ii 
he was soon to realize that he '"too readih allowed 
myself to bring my inventions tinder public notice,"'" 
Bessemer had now thrown out a challenge which 
eventually had to be taken up, regardless of the 
strength of the vested interests involved. The prov- 

'^ Bcsscmcr's paper was reported in 'ihf Times, London, 
August 14, 1856. By the time the Transactions of the British 
Association were prepared for publication, the controversy 
aroused by Bessemcr's claim to manufacture "malleable iron 
and steel without fuel" had broken out and it was decided 
not to report the paper. Dredge (o/<. cil., footnote 1.S, p. 915) 
describes this decision as "sagacious." 

'• B»-ssemer, op. cil. (footnote 7), p. 164. 

ocation came I'roin his claims that the [jrodiict of the 
first staye of tlie conxersion was the equivalent ol 
charcoal iron, the processes following the smeltinii 
i)eing conducted without contact with, or the use ot. 
any mineral fuel: and that further blowing could be 
used to produce an\' quality of metal, that is, a steel 
with any desired percentage of carbon. Yet, the 
principal irritant 10 the complacency of the iron- 
master must have been Bessemcr's attack on an 
industry which had gone on increasing the size of its 
smelting furnaces, thus improving the uniformity of 
its pig-iron, without modifying the puddling process, 
which at best could handle no more than 400 to 500 
pounds of iron at a time, divided into the "homeo- 



pathic doses" of 70 or 80 pounds capable of being 
handled by human labor.-" Bcsscmcr's claim to 
"do" 800 pounds of metal in 30 minutes against the 
puddlins; furnace's output of 500 pounds in two 
hours was calculated to arouse the opposition of those 
who feared the loss of capital invested in puddling 
furnaces and of those who suspected that their jobs 
might be in jeopardy. The ensuing criticism of 
Bessemer has to be interpreted, therefore, with this 
in mind; not by any means was it entirely based on 
objective consideration of the method or the product.-' 

Within a month of his address, Bessemer had sold 
licenses to several ironmasters (outside Sheffield) and 
so provided himself with capital with which to con- 
tinue his development work; but he refused to sell his 
patents outright to the Ebbw Vale Iron Works and 
by this action, as will be seen, he created an enemy 
for himself. 

The three years between 1856 and 1859. when 
Bessemer opened his own steel works in Sheffield, were 
occupied in tracing the causes of his initial difficulties. 
There was continued controversy in the technical 
press. Bessemer (unless he used a nom-de-plume) took 
no part in it and remained silent until he made 
another public appearance before the Instituii(jn of 
Civil Engineers in London (May 1859). By this time 
Bessemer's process was accepted as a practical one, 
and the claims of Robert Mushet to share in his 
achievement was becoming clamorous. 


Robert (Forester) Mushet (1811-1891), born in the 
Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, of a Scots father 
(David, 1772-1847) himself a noted contributor to 
the metallurgy of iron and steel, is, like the .American 
William Kelly, considered by many to ha\"c been a 
victim of Bessemer's astuteness — or villainy. Because 
of Robert Mushet's preference for the quiet of Cole- 
ford, many important facts about his career are lack- 
ing; but even if his physical life was that of a recluse, 
his frequent and verbose contributions to the corre- 
spondence columns of the technical press made him 
well-known to the iron trade. It is from these letters 
that he must be judged. 

In view of his propensity to intervene pontifically in 

every discussion concerning the manufacture of iron 
and steel, it is somewhat surprising that he refrained 
from comment on Bessemer's British A.ssociaiion 
address of August 1856 for more than fourteen months. 
The debate was opened over the signature of his 
brother David who shared the family facility with 
the pen.^^ Recognizing Bessemer's invention as a 
"congruous appendage to [the] now highly developed 
powers of the blast furnace" which he describes as "too 
convenient, too powerful and too capable of further 
development to be superseded by any retrograde 
process," David Mushet greeted Bessemer's discovery 
as "one of the greatest operations ever devised in 
metallurgy." " A month later, however, David 
Mushet had so modified his opinion of Bessemer as to 
come to the conclusion that the latter "must indeed be 
classed with the most unfortunate inventors." He 
gave as his reason for this turnabout his discovery that 
Joseph Martien had demonstrated his process of 
"purifying" metal successfully and had indeed been 
granted a provisional patent a month before Bessemer. 
The sharp practice of Martien's patent lawyer, Mushet 
claimed, had deprived him of an opportunity of 
proving priority of invention against Bessemer. 
Mushet was convinced that Martien's was the first in 
the field.-' 

Robert Mushet's campaign on behalf of his own 
claims to have made the Bessemer process effective 
was introduced in October 1857, two years after the 
beginning of Bessemer's experiment and after one 
year of silence on Bessemer's part. Writing as 
"Sideros" -' he gave credit to Martien for "the great 

=0 The Times, London, .AuRiist 14, 1856. 

-' David Mushet rt-cognizcd that Bossi-mor's great feature 
was this effort to "raise the after processes ... to a level 
commensurate with the preceding case"" (Mining Journal, 
1856, p. 599). 

" See Mining Journal, 1857, vol. 27, pp. 839 and 853. David 
Mushet withdrew from the discussion after 1858 and his relapse 
into obscurity is only broken by an appeal for funds for the 
family of Henry Cort. A biographer of the Mushets is of the 
opinion that Robert Mushet wrote these letters and obtained 
David's signature to them (Fred M. Osborn, The slory of the 
Mushels, London, 1952, p. 44, footnote). The similarity in the 
style of the two brothers is extraordinary enough to support this 
idea. If this is so. Robert Mushet who disagreed with himself 
as "Sideros"' was also in controversy with himself writing as 

-' Mining Journal, 1856, vol. 26, p. 567. 

-* Ibid., pp. 631 and 647. The case of Martien will be dis- 
cussed below (p. 36). David Mushet had overlooked Bessemer's 
patent of January 10, 1855. 

-■■' Mining Journal, 1857, vol. 2"", p. 723. Robert Mushet was 
a constant correspondent of the Mining Journal from 1848. The 
adoption of a pseudonym, peculiar apparently to 1857-1858 
(see Dictionary oj national biography, vol. 39, p. 429), enabled 
him to carry on two debates at a time and also to sing his own 


discovery that pig-iron can, whilst in the (luid slate, be 
purified ... by forcing currents of air under 
it . . . ," though Marticn had failed to observe the 
use of temperature by the "dellation of the ironitself; 
and for discovering that — 

when the carbon has been all. or nearly all. dissipated, 
the temperature increases to an almost inconceivable extent, 
so that the mass, when containing only as much carbon as is 
requisite to constitute with it cast steel . . . still retains a 
perfect degree of fluidity. 

This, says "Sidcros," was no new observation; "it had 
been before the metallurgical world, both practical 
and scientific, for centuries," but Bessemer was the 
first to show^ that this generation of heat could be 
attained by blowing cold air through the melted iron. 
Mushet goes on to show, however, thai the steel thus 
produced by Bessemer w-as not commercially valuable 
because the sulphur and phosphorous remained, and 
the dispersion of oxide of iron through the mass 
"imported to it the inveterate hot-short quality which 
no subsequent operation could e.\pel." '"Sideros" 
concludes that Bessemer's discovery was "at least for 
a time" now shelved and arrested in its progress; and 
it had been left "to an individual of the name of 
Mushet" to show^ that if "fluid metallic manganese" 
were combined with the fluid Bessemer iron, the por- 
tion of manganese thus alloyed would unite with the 
oxygen of the oxide and pass off as slag, removing the 
hot-short quality of the iron. Robert Mushet had 
demonstrated his product to "Sideros" and had 
patented his discovery, though "not one print, literary 
or scientific, had condescended to notice it." 

"Sideros" viewed Mushet's discovery as a "spark 
amongst dry faggots that will one day light up a blaze 
which will astonish the world when the unfortunate 
in\^entor can no longer reap the fruits of his life-long 
toil and unflinching perseverance." In an ensuing 
letter he ''^ summed up the situation as he saw it: 

Nothing that Mr. Mushet can hereafter invent can entitle 
him to the merit of Mr. Bessemer's great discovery . . . 
and . . . nothing that Mr. Bessemer may hereafter patent 
can deprive Mr. Robert Mushet of having been the first to 
remove the obstacles to the success of Mr. Bessemer's 

Bessemer still did not intervene in the newspaper 

discussion; nor had he had any serious supporters, at 
least in the early stasje."" 

Publication in the Mining Journal o( n list of Mushet's 
patents,"* evidently in response to .Sideros" complaint, 
now presented Bes.senier with notice of Robert 
Mushet's acti\it\. e\en if he had not already observed 
his claims as they were presented to the Patent Ollice. 
Mushet, said the .Mirii>ig Journal — 

appears to inlciid to cany on his researches from the 
point where Mr. J. G. Marticn left otf and is proceeding 
on the Bessemer plan of patenting each idea as it occurs to 
his imaginative brain. 1 Ic proposes to make both iron and 
steel but does not appear to have quite decided as to the 
course of action ... to accomplish his object, and therefore 
claims various processes, some of which are never likely to 
realize the inventor's expectations, although decidedly 
novel, whilst others are but slight modification of inventions 
which have already been tried and failed. 

The contemporary attitude is reflected in another 
comment by the Mining Journal:''^ 

Although the application of chemical knowledge to 
the manufacture of malleable iron cannot fail to produce 
beneficial results, the quality of the metal depends more 
upon the mechanical than the chemical processes . . . 
Without wishing in any way to discourage the iron chemists, 
we have no hesitation in giving this as our opinion which we 
shall maintain until the contrary be actually proved. With 
regard to steel, there may be a large field for chemical 
research . . . however, we believe that unless the iron be 
of a nature adapted for the manufacture of steel by ordinary 
processes, the purely chemical inventions will only give a 
metal of a very uniform quality. 

.\nother correspondent. William Green, was of the 
opinion that Mushet's "new compoimds and alloys," 
promised well as an auxiliary to the Bessemer process 
but that "the evil which it was intended to remove was 
more visionar\' than real." Bessemer's chief dilliculty 
was the phosphorus, not the oxide of iron "as Mr. 
Mushet assumes." This, Bessemer no doubt wotdd 
deal with in due course, but meanwhile he did well 
"to concentrate his energies upon the steel opcra- 

*' Ibid., p. 823. Mushet's distinction between an inventor 
and a patentee is indicative of the disdain of a son of David 
Mushet for an amateur (see also p. 886). 

-" One William Green had commented extensively on Dasid 
Mushet's early praise of the Bessemer process and on his 
sudden reversal in favor of Martien soon after Bessemer's British 
Association address {Mechanics' Magazinf, 1856, vol. 65, p. 373 
ff.l. Green wrote from Caledonian Road, and the proximity 
to Baxter House, Bessemer's London headquarters, su£;gests the 
possibility that Green was writing for Bessemer. 

2' Mtmns; Journal, 1857, vol. 27, p. 764. 

=» Ibid , p. 764. 



lions," after which he wimld have time to tackle "the 
difficiihies which have so far retarded the iron 
operations." '"' 

Mushet ^' claims to have taken out his ])atent of 
September 22, 1856, co\-crino- the famous "triple 
compound," after he — 

had fully ascenaincd, upon the ordinary scale of manu- 
facture that air-purified cast-iron, when treated as set forth 
in my specifications, would afford tough malleable iron . . . 
I found, however, that the remelting of the coke pig-iron, 
in contact with coke fuel, hardened the iron too much, 
and it became evident that an air-furnace was more proper 
for my purpose . . . [the difficulties] arose, not from anv 
defect in my process, but were owing to the small quantity 
of the metal operated upon and the imperfect arrangement of 
the purifying vessel, which ought to be so constituted that 
it may be turned upon an axis, the blast taken off, the alloy 
added and the steel poured out through a spout . . , Such 
a purifying vessel Mr. Bessemer has delineated in one of his patents. 

Mushet also claimed to have designed his own 
"purifying and mixing" furnace, of 20-ton capacity, 
which he had submitted to the Ebbw \'ale Iron 
Works "many months ago, " without comment from 
them. There is an intriguing reference to the pain- 
ful subject of two patents not proceeded with, and 
not discussed "in the a\aricious hope that the parties 
connected with the patents will make me honorable 
amends . . . these patents were suppressed without 
my knowledge or consent. " Lest his qualifications 
should be cjuestioned, Mushet concludes: 

I do not profess to be an iron chemist, but I have un- 
doubtedly made more experiments upon the subject of 
iron and steel than any man now living and I am thereby 
enabled to say that all I know is but little in comparison 
with what has yet to be discovered. 

So began Mushet's claim to have solved Be.s.semer's 
problem, a claim which was to fill the correspondence 
cokmnis of the engineering jotirnals for the next ten 
years. Interpretation of this correspondence is made 
difficult by our ignorance of the facts concerning the 
control of Mushet's patents. These have to be pieced 
together from his scattered references to the subject. 

His experiments were conducted, at least nearly up 
to the close of the year 1856, with the cooperation 
of Thomas Brown of the Ebbw Vale Iron Works. '" 
The price of this assistance was apparently half in- 
terest in Mushet's patents, though for reasons which 
Mushet does not explain the deed prepared to effect 

"/AiV., p. 791. 

" IhiJ., p. 770 (italics supplied). 

" Ihid., p. 770. 

471274—59 4 

the transfer was never executed," Mushet contin- 
ued, however, to regard the patents as "wholly my 
own, though at the same time, I am bound in honor 
to take no unfair advantage of the non-execution of 
that deed." .\ possible explanation of this situation 
ma\- be found in Ebbw \'ale's activities in connection 
with Martien and Bessemer, as well as with an 
Austrian inventor, Uchatius, 

Ebbw Vale and the Bessemer Process 

After his British .^s.sociation address in .\ugust 
1856, Be-ssemer had received applications from several 
ironmasters for licenses, which were issued in return 
for a down payment and a nominal royalty of 25 
pence per ton. ,\niong those who started negotia- 
tions was Mr. Thomas Brown of Ebbw Vale Iron 
Works, one of the largest of the South Wales plants. 
He proposed, however, instead of a, an out- 
right purchase of Bessemer's patents for £50,000. 
Bessemer refused to .sell, and according to his '* ac- 
count — 

intense disappointment and anger quite got the better of 
[Brown] and for the moment he could not realize the fact 
of my refusal . . . [He then] left me very abruptly, saying 
in an irritated tone . . . "I'll make you see the matter 
differently yet" and slammed the door after him. 

David Mushet's advocacy of Martien's claim to 
priority over Besseiner has already been noticed 
(p. 33). From him we learn '^ that Martien's cxf>eri- 
ments leading to his patent of September 15, 1855, 
had been carried out at the Ebbw Vale Works in 
South Wales, where he engaged in "jx'rfectins; the 
Renton process." "' Martien's own process consisted 
in passing air through metal as it was run in a trough 
from the furnace and before it passed into the puddling 

It is known that Martien's patent was in the hands 
of the Ebbw \'ale Iron Works by March 1857.^" This 
fact nnist be added to our knowledge that Mushet's 
patent of September 22. 1856 was drawn up with a 
specific reference to the application of his "triple 

" Ihtd., p. 823, 

"Bessemer, op. cit. (footnote 7), p. 169. 

5' Mining Journal, 1856, vol. 26, p. 631. 

'"James Rcnton's process (U. S. patent 8613. December 23, 
1851) had been developed at Newark, Now Jersey, in 1854, 
It wa« a modification of the puddlini; furnace, in which the 
ore and carbon were heated in tubs, utilizing the waste heat 
of the revcrbcratory furnace (sec the Mechanics' .\taga-ine, 
vol. 62, p. 246, 1855). Ronton died at Newark in September 
1856 (Mechanics' Maga-int, 1856, vol. 65, p. 422). 

" Mining Journal, 1857, vol. 27, p. 193, 


compound" to "iron . . . puriiied by the action of 
air, in the manner invented l)y Joseph Gilbert 
Martien," '^ and that this and his other manganese 
patents were imder the elVective control of Eblnv \'ale. 
It seems a reasonable deduction from these circum- 
stances that Brown's ofler to buy out Bessemer and his 
subsequent threat were the consequences of a deter- 
mination by Ebbw \'ale to attack Bi'sscnier by means 
of patent infringement suits. 

Some aspects of the Ebbw \ ale siuiaiion are not 
yet explained. Martien came to South Wales from 
Newark, New Jersey, where he had been manager of 
Renton's Patent Semi-Bituminous Cloal Furnace, 
owned by James Quimby, and where he had some- 
thing to do with the installati(jn of Renton's first 
furnace in 1854. The first furnace was unsuccessful.^' 
Martien next appears in Britain, at the Ebbw \'ale 
Iron Works. No information is available as to whether 
Martien's own furnace was actually installed at Ebbw 
\'ale, although as noted above, I)a\id Mushet claims 
to have been in\iied to see it there. 

Martien secured an .American patent for his process 
in 1857 and to file his application appears to have 
gone to the United States, where he remained at least 
until October 1858.''" He seems to have taken the 
opportunity to apply for another patent for a furnace 
similar to that of James Renton. This led to inter- 
ferences proceedings in which Martien showed that 
he had worked on this furnace at Bridgend, Glamor- 
ganshire (one of the Ebbw Vale plants), improving 
Renton's design by increasing the number of "de- 
oxydizing tubes." This variation in Renton's design 
was held not patentable, and in any case Renton's 
firm was able to show that they had successfully 
installed the furnace at Newark in 1852-1853, while 
Martien could not satisfy the Commissioner that his 
installation had been made before September 1854. 
Priority was therefore awarded to Quimby. Brown, 
Renton, and Creswell.'" 

»» BritLsh patent 2219, September 22, 1856. 

"Joseph P. Lesley, I'he iron manufacturer's guide. New York, 
1859, p. 34. Martien's name is spelled Martcen. A descrip- 
tion of the furnace is given in Scientific American of February 11, 
1854, (vol. 9, p. 169). In the patent interference proceedings 
referred to below, it was stated that the furnace was in success- 
ful operation in 1854. 

*" U. S. patent 16690, February 22, 1857. A correspondent 
of the Mining Journal (1858, vol. 28, p. 713) states that Martien 
had not returned to England by October 1858. 

*' U. S. Patent Office, Decision of Commissioner of Patents, 
dated May 26, 1859 in the matter of interference between the 
application of James M. Quimby and others . . . and of Joseph 

Since Renton had not patented his furnace in 
Great Britain, Martien's use of his earlier knowledge 
of Renton's work and of his experience at Bridgend 
in an attempt to upset Renton's priority is a curious 
and at present unexplainable episode. Perhaps the 
early records of the Ebbw Vale Iron Works, if they 
exist, will show whether this episode was in some 
way linked to the firm's optimistic combination of 
the British patents of Martien and Mushet. 

That Ebbw Vale exerted every effort to find an 
alternative to Bessemer's process is suggested, also, 
iiy their purchase in 1856 of the British rights to the 
Uchatius process, invented by an .Austrian Army 
officer. The provisional patent specifications, dated 
Octolaer 1. 1855, showed that Uchatius proposed to 
inake cast steel directly froin pig-iron by melting 
granulated pig-iron in a crucible with puKerized 
"sparry iron" (siderite) and fine clay or with gray 
oxide of manganese, which would determine the 
amount of carbon combining with the iron. This 
process, which was to prove commercially successful 
in Great Britain and in Sweden but was not u.sed in 
.America,*" appeared to Ebbw \'ale to be something 
from which, "we can ha\e steel produced at the [jrice 
proposed by Mr. Bessemer, notwithstanding the 
failure of his process to fulfil the promise." *^ 

So far as is known only one direct attempt was 
made, presumably instigated by Ebbw \'ale, to 
enforce their patents against Bessemer, who records " 
a visit by Mushet's agent some two or three months 
before a renewal fee on Mushet's basic manganese 
patents became payable in 1859. Bessemer "entirely 
repudiated" Mushet's patents and ofTered to perform 
his operations in the presence of Mushet's lawyers 
and at the Sheffield \\'orks so that a prose- 
cution for infringement "would be a very simple 
matter." That, he says, was the last heard from the 
agent or from Mushet on the subject.*' The renewal 
fee was not paid and the patents were therefore 
abandoned by Kl)bw \'aie and their associates, a 

♦- J. S.Jeans, op.cil. (footnote 5), p. 108. The process is not 
mentioned by James M. Swank, History oj the manujaclure of 
iron in all ages, Philadelphia. American Iron and .Steel Asso- 
ciation, 1892. 

" Mining Journal, 1856, vol. 26, p. 707. 

*' Bessemer, op. cil. (footnote 7), p. 290. 

'^ The American Iron and Steel Institute's "Steel centen- 
nial (1957) press information" (see footnote 2), includes a 
pamphlet, "Kelly lighted the fireworks . . ." by Vaughn 
Shclton (New York, 1956), which asserts (p. 12) that Bessemer 
paid the renewal fee and became the owner of Mushet's 
"vital" patent. 



fact which did not come lo Mushet's knowledge uniil 
1861. when he himself declared that the patent ''was 
never in my hands at all [so] that I could not enforce 
it." '" 

Further support for the thesis that Ehbw Vale's 
policy was in part dictated ljy a desire to make Bes- 
semer "see the matter difl'erently"" is lo be found in 
the climatic episode. Work on Marlien's patents 
had not been abandoned and in 1861 certain patents 
were taken out by George Parry, Kbliw Vale's 
furnace manager. These, represented as improve- 
ments oi Martien's designs, were regarded by Bes- 
semer as clear infringements of his own patents." 
When it came to Bes.semer's knowledge that Ehbw 
\'ale was proposing to "go to the public" for addi- 
tional capital with which to finance, in part, a large 
scale working of Parry's process, he threatened the 
financial promoter with injunctions and succeeded 
in opening negotiations for a settlement. All the 
patents "which had been for years suspended" over 
Bessemer were turned over to him for £30,000. 
Ebbw Vale, thereupon, issued their prospectus ** 
with the significant statement that the directors 
"have agreed for a license for the manufacture of 
steel by the Bessemer process which, from the peculiar 
resources they possess, they will be enabled to produce 
in very large quantities. . . ." So Bessemer became 
theownerof the Martien and Parry patents. Mushet's 
basic patents no longer existed. 

Mushct and Bessemer 

That Mushet was "used" by Ebbw \'ale against 
Bessemer is, perhaps, only an assumption; but that he 
was badly treated by Ebbw Vale is subject to no 
doubt. Mushet's business capacity was small but it 
is difficult to believe that he could have been so foolish 
as to assign an interest in his patents to Ebbw \'ale 
without in some way insuring his right of consultation 
about their disposition. He claims that even in the 
drafting of his specifications he was obliged to follow 
the demands of Ebbw \'ale, which firm, believing, 
"on the advice of Mr. Hindmarsh, the most eminent 
patent counsel of the day," " that Martien's patent 
outranked Bessemer's, insisted that Mushet link his 

process to Martien's. This, as late as 1861, Mushet 
believed to be in effective oiieration.'" His later 
repudiation of the process as an absurd and impracti- 
cable patent process "possessing neither value nor 
utilit\ " ^' may more truly represent his opinion, espe- 
cialK as, when he wrote his 1861 comment, he still 
did not know of the disappearance of his patents. 

Mushet's boast '-' that he had never been into an 
ironworks other than his own in Cloleford is a clue to 
the interpretation of his behavior in general and also 
of his frecjuent presumptuous claims. \Vhen, for in- 
stance, the development of the L'chatius process was 
publicized, he gave his opinion ^' that the process was 
a useless one and had been patented before L'chatius 
"understood its nature"; yet later ^' he could claim 
that the jirocess was "in fact, m\' own invention and 
I had made and sold the steel thus produced for some 
years previously to the date of Captain L'chatius' 
patent." Moreover, he claims to have instructed 
L^chatius' agents in its operation! He may, at this 
later date, have recalled his challenge (the first of 
many such) in which he offered Uchatius' agent in 
England to pay a monetary penalty if he could not 
show a superior method of fjroducing "sound service- 
able cast steel from British coke pig-iron, on lite slomic 
plan and without any mi.xture of clay, oxide of man- 
ganese or any of these pot destroying ingredients." ^^ 

It was David Mushet (or Robert, using his 
brother's name)''" who accused Bessemer, or rather his 
patent agent, Carpmael, of sharp practice in connec- 
tion with Martien's specification, an allegation later 
supported by Martien's first patent agent, Avery." 
The story was that for the drafting of his final specifica- 
tion, Martien, presumably with the advice of the Ebbw 
Vale Iron Works, consulted the same Carpmael, as 
"the leading man" in the field. The latter advised 
that the provisional specification restricted Martien 
to the application of his method to iron flowing in a 
channel or gutter from the blast furnace, and so 
prevented him from applying his aeration principle 
in any kind of receptacle. In effect, Carpmael was 

*' Robert Mushct, //« Bessemer-Mushcl process, Chcllcnhaiii, 
1883, p. 24; The Engineer, \?,b\, vol. 12, pp. 177 and 189. 

" The Engineer, 1862, vol. 14, p. 3. Bessemer, op. cil. (foot- 
note?), p. 296. 

*' Mining Journal, 1864, vol. 34, p. 478. 

" The Engineer, 1861, vol. 12, p. 189. 

=0 Ibid., p. 78. 

" Mushet, op. cit. (footnote 46), p. 9. 

" Ibid., p. 25. 

" .Mining Journal, 1857, vol. 27, p. 755. 

'* Mushet, op. eil. (footnote 46), p. 28. The Uchatius process 
became the "You-cheat-us" process to Mushet {.Mining Journal, 
1858, vol. 28, p. 34). 

*' .Mining Journal, 1857, vol. 27, p. 755 (italics supplied). 

" See footnote 22. 

" Mining Journal, 1856, vol. 26, pp. 583, 631. 



actinij unprorcssionally by giving Bessemer the |5iior 
claim to the use of a receptacle. According to 
Musliet, Marticn had in fact "actually and pviblich- 
proved" his process in a receptacle aiui not in a 
gutter, so that his claim to priority could be main- 
tained on the basis of the provisional specification. 

This, like other Mushet allegations, was ignored by 
Bessemer, and probably with good reason. At any 
rate, Martien's American patent is in terms similar 
to those of the British specification; he or his advisers 
seem to have attached no significance to the dis- 
tinction between a gutter and a receptacle. 

Mushet's claim to have afforded Bessemer the 
means of makine: his own process useful is still sub- 
ject to debate. Unfortunately, documentation of the 
case is almost wholly one sided, since his biggest 
publicizer was Mushet himself. An occasional edi- 
torial in the technical press and a few replies to 
Mushet's "lucubrations" are all the material which 
exists, apart from Bessemer's own story. 

Mushet and at least five other men patented the 
use of manganese in steel making in 1856; his own 
provisional specification was filed within a month of 
the pui)licatioii of Bessemer's British .Association ad- 
dress in August 1856. So it is strange that Robert 
Mushet did not until more than a year later join in 
the controversy which followed that address. ■'*''* In 
one of his early letters he claims to have made of 
"his"' steel a bridge rail of 750 pounds weight; al- 
though his brother insists that he saw the same rail 
in the Ebbw Vale offices in London in the spring of 
1857, when it was presented as a specimen of Uchatius 
steel!" Robert Mushet's indignant "advertisement"' 
of January 5, 1858,"" reiterating his parentage of this 
sample, also claimed a double-headed steel rail 
"made by me under another of my patent processes," 
and sent to Derby to i)e laid down ihcrc lo be "sub- 
jcted to intense vertricular triturations." Mushet's de- 
scription of the preparation of this ingot "' shows that 
it was derived from "Bessemer .scrap" made by Ebbw^ 
Vale in the first unsuccessful attempts of that firm 
to simulate the Bessemer process. This .scrap Mushet 
had remelted in pots with spiegel in the proportions 
of 44 pounds of scrap to ?> of melted spiegel. It was 

his claim that the rail was rolled direct from the 
ingot, soniethinu; Bessemer himself could not do at 
that time. 

This was the beginning of a series of claims by 
Mushet as to his e.s.sential contributions to Bessemer's 
invention. The silence of the latter during this jieriod 
is impressive, for according to Bessemer's own ac- 
count "■ his British Association address was premature, 
and although the sale of licenses actually provided him 
with working funds, the impatience of those experi- 
menting with the process and the flood of competing 
"inventions" all embarrassed him at the most critical 
stage of this development of the process: "It was, 
however, no use for me to argue the matter in the 
press. All that I could say would be mere talk and I 
felt that action was necessary, and not words." '' 

Action took the form of continued experiments and, 
by the end of 1857, a decision to build his own plant 
at Sheffield."* An important collateral development 
resulted from the visit to London in May 1857 of 
G. F. Goran.s.son of Gefle. .Sweden. L sing Bessemer 
equipment, Goransson began trials of the process in 
November 1857 and by October 1858 was able to 
report: "Our firm has now entirely given up the 
manufacture of bar iron, and our blast furnaces and 
tilt mills are now wholly employed in makinu; steel by 
the Bessemer process, which may, therefore, be now 
considered an accomplished commercial fact." '^ 

Goransson was later to claim considerable improve- 
ments i;n the method of introducing the blast, and, in 
consequence, the first effective demonstration of the 
Bessemer method "" — this at a time when Bessemer 
was still remelting the product of his con\erter in 
crucibles, after granulating the steel in water. If 
Mushet is to be believed, this success of Goransson's 
was w holly due to his ore being "totally free from phos- 
phorous and sulphur." '" However, Bessemer's own 
progress was substantial, for his Sheffield works were 
rejjorted as being in acti\'e operation in .April 1859, 
and a price for his engineers' tool and spindle steel was 

'* October 17, 1857, writing as "Sidcros" {Mining Journal, 
1857, vol. 27, p. 723). 

^' Mining Journal, 1857, vol. 27, p. 871, and 1858, vol. 28, 
p. 12. 

"/Airf. (1858), p. 34. 

" Mushet, op. cil. (footnote 46), p. 12. The phrase quoted is 
typical of Mushet's style. 

'- Bessemer, op. cil. (footnote 7), pp. 161 ff. and 256 ff. 

«'/*/(/., p. 171. 

''* This enterprise, started in conjunction with Galloway's of 
Manchester, one of the firms licensed by Bessemer to make his 
equipment, was under way by .April 1858 (see Mining Journal, 
1858, vol. 28, p. 259). 

"' Mining Journal, 1858, vol. 28, p. 696. Mushet commented 
(p. 713) that he ha<l done the same thing "eighteen 
months ago." 

«« Swank, op. cit. (footnote 42), p. 405. 

»' The Enginffr, 1859, vol. 7, p. 350. 



ituluclcti in the Mining Journal ''Minini;; Market" 
weekly ciuotations for the first time "** on June 4, 1859. 
In Ma\ 1859 Bessemer gave a paper, his first public 
|)r()nouncement since August 1856, before the Institu- 
tion of Ci\il Engineers.'^' The early process, he 
admitted, had led to failure because the process had 
not reduced the fiii.mtity of sulphur and |)hosphorous, 
but his accoimt is xa^ue as to the nianncr in which he 
dealt with this problem: 

Sicam and pure hydrogen gas wore tried, wiili more or 
less success in the removal of sulphur, and various flues, 
composed chiefly of silicates of the oxide of iron and 
manganese were brought in contact with the fluid nieufl. 
during the process and the quaniiiy of ])hosphorous was 
thereby reduced. 

But the clear implication is that the commercial o|K-ra- 
tion at Sheffield was based on the use of the best 
Swedish pig iron and the hematite pig from Work- 
ington. The use of manganese as standard practice 
at this time is not referred to,™ but the rotary con- 
verter and the use of ganister linings are mentioned 
for the first time. 

Mushet had, with some intuition, found opportunity 
to reassert his contributions to Bessemer a few days 
before this address, describing his process as perhaps 
lacking "the extraordinary merit of Mr. Bessemer,"' 
being "merely a vigorous offshoot proceeding from 
that great discovery; but, combined with Mr. Besse- 
nier's process, it places within the reach of every iron 
manufacturer to produce cast steel at the same cost 
for which he can now make his best iron." '' 

One of Mushet's replies to the pa])er itself took the 
form of the announcement of his pro\isional patent lor 
the use of his triple coinpound which, in the opinion 
of The Mining Journal appeared to be "but a very slight 
modification of seveial of Mr. Bcssenier's inventions." 
Another half dozen patents appeared within two 
months, "so that it is apparent that Mr. Mushet's 

*" Mining Jnitrnal. 18.S9, vol. 29, pp. 396 and tOl. llic price 
quotation was continued until .•\pril 1865. 

«» Thf Engineer, 18S9, vol. 7, p. 437. 

'"Jeans, op. cit. (footnote 5), p. 349 refers to the hematite ores 
of Lancashire and Cumberland as "the ores hitherto almost 
exclusively used in the Bessemer proces.s." 

\ definitive account of the Swedish development of the 
Bessemer process, leading to a well-documented claim that the 
first practical realization of the proces,s was achieved in Sweden 
in July 1858, was recently published (Per Carlbcrg, "Early 
Production of Bessemer Steel at Edsken," Journal of the Iron and 
Steel Institute, Great Britain, July 1958, vol. 189, p. 201. 

"' The Engineer, 1859, vol. 7, p. 314. Bessemer's intention to 
present his paper had been announced in .April. 

faihuc to make the public appreciate his theories has 
not injured his inventive faculties." "^ These patents 
include, besides variations on his "triple compound" 
theme, his important patent on the use of tungsten for 
cutting tools, later to be known as Mushet steel."'' 

Mushet's formal pronouncement on Bessemer's 
paper, dated June 28, 1859, is perhaps his most 
intelligible communication on the subject. He alone 
■■from the first consistent!)' advocated the merits and 
pointed out the defects of the Bessemer process," and 
within a few days of the British .■Xs.sociation address he 
had shown Ebbw Vale "where the defect would be 
found and what woidd remedy" it. It was not, in fact, 
the |3resence of one-tenth of a percent of sulphur or 
phosjjhorous which affected the result if the Bessemer 
process were combined with his process by adding a 
triple compoimd of iron, carbon, and manganese to 
the pia;. "There never was a bar of first-rate cast 
steel made b\- the Bessemer process alone"; (and that 
included Gorans.son's product) "and there never can 
be, but a cheap kind of steel applicable to several 
purposes may be thus produced." .\fter emphasizing 
the imiciueness of his attempt to make Bessemer's 
process successful, he asserts:"* 

In short, I merely availed myself of a great metallurgical 
fact, wliic/i has been for years before the eyes of the metallurgical 
world, namely that the presence of metallic manganese in 
iron and steel conferred upon both an amount of toughness 
cither when cold or when heated, which the presence at the 
same time of a notable amount of sulphur and phosphorous 
could not overcome. 

The succeeding years were enlivened, one by one, 
by some controversy in which Mushet invoked the 
shadow of his late father as support for some pro- 
nouncement, or "edict," as some said, on the subject 
of making iron and steel. In 1860, on the question of 
suitable metal for artillery, later to be the subject of 
high controversy among the leading experts of the 
day, Mushet found a ready solution in his own gun 
metal. This he had developed fifteen years before. 
It was of a tensile strength better even than that of 
Krupp of Essen who was then specializing in the 
making of large blocks of cast steel for hea\y forginsjs, 
and particularly for guns. Indeed, he was able 

'- Mining Journal, 1 859, vol. 29, p. 539 and 640. .\nothcr 
Mushet patent is described as .so much like Uchatius' process 
that it would seem to be almost unpatentable. 

"' Sec Jeans, op. cit. (footnote 5), p. 532. 

'* The Engineer, 1859, vol. 8, p. 13 (italics supplied). It is 
noted that Mushet's .Xmcrican patent (17389, of May 26, 1857) 
prefers the use of iron "as free as possible from Sulphur and 

F.\PER 3: 



publicly to challcnsrc Riupi) to produce a cast gun 
metal or cast steel to stand test against his."'' A year 
later his attack on the distinguished French metal- 
lurgist Fremy, whom he descriix-s as an "ass" lor his 
interest in the so-called cyanogen process of steel 
making, did little to enhance his reputation, whatever 
the scientific justification for his attack. His attitude 
toward the use of New Zealand (Taranaki) metal- 
liferous sand, which he had ]5re\iousl\- favored and 
then condemned in such a wa\- as to "injure a project 
he can no longer control," "" was anotlier exami)lc of a 
public l)eha\i()r e\identl\ resented. 

By niid-1861, on tlie otlier liaiul, Bessemer was 
beginning to meet with increasing respect from the 
trade. The .Sociel\ of Engineers reccixed a dispas- 
sionate accoiml of the achievement at the Sheffield 
Works from E. Riley, whose firm (Dowlais) was 
among the earlier and disai)pointcd licensees of the 
process." In August 1861. i'i\e \cars after the ill- 
fated address before the British A.s.sociation, the 
Institution of Mechanical Engineers, meeting in 
Sheffield, the center of the British steel trade, heard 
papers from Bessemer and from John Brown, a 
famous ironmaster. The latter described the making 
of Bessemer rails, the |)ro(hicl which above all was 
to absorb the Bessemer plants in America after 1865. 
.•\fter the meeting, the engineers visited Bessemer's 
works; and later it was reported," "at Messrs. John 
Brown and Company's works, the Bessemer process 
was repeated on a still larger scale and a heavy 
armor plate rolled in the presence of some 2.S0 
visitors. ..." 

These ]3rocecdings invited Robert Mushet's inter- 
vention. Still imder the iui]5ression that his jiatent 
was still alive and, with Martien's, in the "able 
hands" of the Ebbw \'ale Iron Company, he con- 
demned Bessemer for his "lack of grace" to do him 
justice, and took the occasion to indict the patent 
system which denied him and Martien the fruits of 
their labors.™ 

The Engineer foimd Mushet's position untenable on 
the very groimds he was pleading — that patents 
should not be issued to different men at different 
times for the same thing; and showed that Bessemer 
in his patents of January 4, 1856, and later, had 
clearly anticipated Mushet. In a subsequent article. 

The Engineer disposed of Martien's and Mushet's 
claims with a certain finaliiv . The Ebbw Vale Iron 
Works had spent £7.11110 trying to carry out the 
Martien process and it was imlikely that they would 
have allowed Bessemer to infringe upon that patent 
if they had any grounds for a case. Bessemer was 
not iniiiaiini; Musiiet. The latter's "triple com- 
pound" recjuired manganese pig-iron (with a content 
of 2 to 5 percent of manganese) at £13 per ton while 
Bessemer used an oxide of manganese (at a 50 peicciu 
concentration) : at £7 per ton. 

The alloy of manganese and otlicr materials now u.sed in 
the atmospheric process contains 50 percent of manganese, 
a proportion which could never be obtained from the blast 
furnace, owing to tlie highly o.xidisablc nature of that metal. 
.\nd it is absolutely necessary, in order to apply any useful 
alloy of iron, carbon and manganese, in the manufacture of 
malleable iron and very soft steel that the manganese should 
be largely in excess of the carbon present."" 

Sutlicient answer to Mushet was at any rate avail- 
able in the fact that manv hundreds of tons of ex- 
cellent "Bessemer metal" made without anv- mixture 
of manganese or spicgeleisen in any form were in 
successful use. .And, moreover, spiegeleisen was not 
a discovery of Robert Mu.shet or an exclusive product 
of Germany since it had been made for twent)- years 
at least from Tow Law (Durham) ores. If Bessemer 
had refused Mushet a license (and this was an ad- 
mitted fact), Bessemer's refusal must have been made 
in self-defense: 

Mr. Mushet having sei up a number of claims for "im- 
provements" upon which claims, we have a right to suppose, 
he was preparing to lake toll from Mr. Bessemer, but which 
claims, the latter gentleman discovered, in time, were 
worthless and accordingly declined any negotiations with the 
individual making them,*' 

Mushet's claims were by this time rarely supported 
in the periodicals. One interesting article in his favor 
came in 1864 from a source of special interest to the 
American situation. Mushet's .American patent ^^ had 

" The Engineer, 1860, vol. 9, pp. 366, 416, and passim. 

■» The Engineer, 1861, vol. 11, pp. 189, 202, 290, 304. 

" The Engineer, 1861, vol. 12, p. 10. 

" Ibid., p. 63. 

" Ibid., pp. 78 and 177, 

»" Ihul., p. 208. TlKMr is an intrit;uini{ reference in this edi- 
torial to an interference on behalf of Martien against a Bessemer 
application for a U. S. patent. No dates are given and the case 
lias not been located in the record of U. S. I'atent Commis- 
sioner's deci.sion. 

»' Ibid., p. 254. 

*! U. S. patent 17389, dated May 26, 1857. The patent was 
not renewed when application was made in 1870, on the 
grounds that the original patent had been made co-terminal 
with the British patent. The latter had been abandoned "by 
Mushet's own fault" so that no right existed to an .American 
renewal (U. .S. Patent Office, Decision of Clommissioner of 
Patents, dated .September 19, 1870). 



Ik'cii bouylu l)\ an American group interested in the 
Kelh' jjrocess at about tliis tiine,'*^ and Bessemcr's 
American rights had also been sold to an American 
group that inchided Alexander Lyman Holley,'^ who 
had long been associated with Zerah Colburn, another 
American engineer. Oolburn, who subsequently 
(1866) established the London [jcriodical Engineering 
and is regarded as one ol the founders of engineering 
journalism, was from 1862 onward a frequent con- 
tributor to other trade pa])ers in London. C'.olburn's 
article of 1864 ''^ seems to ha\-e been of some impor- 
tance to Mushet, who, in the prospectus of the Titanic 
Steel and Iron Company, Ltd., issued soon after, 
brazenly asserted *^ that, "by the process of Mr. 
Mushet especially when in combination with the Bessemer 
process, steel as good as Swedish steel" would be 
produced at £6 per ton. Mushet may have intended 
to invite a patent action, but evidently Bessemer 
could now more than ever afford to ignore the "sage 
of Coleford." 

The )ear 1865 saw Mushet less provocative and 
more appealing; as for instance: "It was no fault of 
Mr. Bessemer's that my patent was lost, but he ought 
to acknowledge his obligations to me in a manh . 
straightforward manner and this would stamp him 
as a great man as well as a great inventor." *' 

But Bessemer evidently remained convinced of the 
security of his own patent position. \i\ an address 
before the British Association at Birmingham in 
September 1865 he made his first public reply to 
Mushet."* In his long series of patents Mushet had 
attempted to secure — 

almost every conceivable mode of iiuroducing manganese 
into the metal. . . . Manganese and its compounds were 
so claimed under all imaginable conditions that if this series 
of patents could have been sustained in law, it would have 
been utterly impossible for [me] to have employed man- 
ganese with steel made by his process, although it was 
considered by the trade to be impossible lo make steel from 
coke-made iron without it. 

'' .See below, p. 45. The exact date of the purchase of 
Mushet's patent is not known. 

«' Engineering, 1882, vol. 33, p. 114. Ihe deal was coinpletcd 
in 1863. 

»5 Tlie Engineer, 1864, vol. 18, pp. 405, 406. 

"« Mining Journal, 1 864, vol. 34, pp. 77 and 94 (italics sup- 
plied). It has not yet been possible to ascertain if this com- 
pany was successful. Mushet writ<-s from this time on from 
C:heltcnham, where the company had its ofTices. Research 
continues in this interesting aspect of his career. 

" Mining Engineer, 1865, vol. 35, p. 86. 

s« The Engineer. 1865, vol. 20, p. 174. 


T he failure of who controlled Mushet's batch 
of patents to renew them at the end of three years, 
Bessemer ascribed to the low public estimation to 
which Mushet's process had sunk in 1859, and he had 
therefore, ''u.scd without scru|)le any of these numer- 
ous patents for manganese without feeling an over- 
whelming sense of obligation to the patentee." He 
was now using fcrromanganese made in Glasgow. 
Another alloy, consisting of 60 to 80 percent of metallic 
manganese was also available to him from Germany. 

This renewed publicity brought forth no immediate 
reply from Mushet, but a year later he was invited to 
read a paper before the British Association. A report 
on the meeting stated that in his paper he repeated 
his oft-told story, and that "he still thought that the 
accident (of the non-payment of the patent stamp 
duties) ought not to debar him from receiving the 
reward to which he was justly entitled." Bessemer, 
who was present, reiterated his constant willingness to 
submit the matter to the courts of law, but pointed out 
that Mushet had not accepted the challenge.** 

Three months later, in December 1866, Mushet's 
daughter called on Bessemer and asked his help to 
prevent the of their home: "They tell me you use 
my father's inventions and are indebted to him for 
your success." Bessemer replied characteristically: 

I use what your father has no right to claim; and if 
he had the legal position you seem to suppose, he could stop 
my business by an injunction tomorrow and get many 
thousands of pounds compensation for my infringement of 
his rights. The only result which followed from your 
father taking out his patents was that they pointed out to 
me some rights which I already- possessed, but of which I 
was not availing myself. Thus he did me some service and 
even for this unintentional service, I cannot live in a state of 
indebtedness. . . . 

With that he gave Miss Mushet money to cover a 
debt for which distraint was threatened.** Soon after 
this action, Bessemer made Mushet a "small allow- 
ance" of £300 a year. Bessemer's reasons for making 
this payment, he describes as follows: "There was a 
strong desire on my part to make him (Mushet) my 
debtor rather than the reverse, and the payment had 
other advantages: the press at that time was violently 
attacking my patent and there was the chance that if 
any of my licensees were thus induced to resist my 
claims, all the rest might follow the example." " 

S9 .Mechanics' .Magazine, 1866, vol. 16, p. 147. 
«• Bessemer, ofi. cit. (footnote 7), p. 294. 
»' Ibid. 


Mushei's Titanic Steel and Iron Company was 
liquidated in 1871 and its principal asset, "R. Miishet's 
special steel," that is, his tungsten alloy tool metal, 
was taken over by the Sheffield firm of Samuel Osborn 
and Company. The royalties from this, with Besse- 
mer's pension .seem to ha\e left Mushet in a reasonably 
comfortable condition until his death in 1891;''- but 
e\-en the award of the Bessemer medal by the Iron 
and Steel Institute in 1876 failed to remove the con- 
viction that he had been badly treated. One would 
like to know more about the politics which preceded 
the award of the trade's highest honor. Bessemer 
at any rate was persuaded to approve of the presenta- 
tion and attended the meeting. Mushet himself did 
not accept the invitation, "as I may probably not be 
then alive." ^ The President of the Institute empha- 
sized the present good relations between Mushet and 
Bessemer and the latter recorded that the hatchet had 
"long since" been buried. Yrx .\luslu-t continuccl to 

" See Fred M. Osborn, 7 he story of the Atushets, London, 1852. 
»' Journal of the Iron and Steel Institute, 1876, p. .^. 

brood over the injustice done to him and eventually 
recorded his story of the rise and progress of the 
"Bessemer-Mushet" process in a pamphlet ''' written 
apparently without reference to his earlier statements 
and so commiiting himself to many inconsistencies. 

William Kelly s "Air-boiling" Pfoccss 

An account of Bcssemer's address to ilu- British 
.Association was ])ul)lishccl in the Scienlijic American on 
September 13, 1856."^ On .September 16, 18.S6, 
Martien filed application for a U. S. patent on his 
furnace and .Mushet for one on the apjilication of his 
triple compound to cast iron "(jurificd or decarbon- 
ized by the action of air blown or forced into ... its 
particles while it is in a molten . . . state."'" 

•* Robert Mushet, The Bessemer-Mushet process, Chellenliam, 

^^ Scientific American, 1856, vol. 12, p. 6. 

»« U. .S. patent 17389, dated May 26, 1857. Martien's U. S. 
patent was i;ianted as 16690, dated February 24, 1857. 

}i: Jfelh/. 

cMa/iiif. of Iron ,^' Steel. 

Figure 2.— Only Known Design for Kelly's Air-Boiling 
Furnace, From U. S. Patent 17628. A is '-the flue to 
carr>' off the carbonic gas formed in decarbonizing the iron." 

B is the port through which the charge of fluid iron is re- 
ceived, C and C are the tuyeres, and D is the tap hole for 
letting out the refined metal. 



Muslut. by this time, had apparently decided lo 
i^encralize the ap[)Hcation of his compound instead of 
citing its use in conjunction with Marticn's process, 
or, as he put it, he had been obliged to do for his 
English specification by the Ebbw Vale Iron W'orks. 

The discussion in the Scientific American, which was 
mostly concerned with Martien's claim to priority, 
soon evoked a letter from William Kelly. Writing 
under date of September 30, 1856, from the Suwanee 
Iron Works, Eddyville, Kentucky, he claimed to have 
started "a series of experiments" in November 1851 
which had been witnessed by hundreds of persons and 
"discussed amongst the ironmasters, etc., of this sec- 
tion, all of whom are perfectly familiar with the whole 
principle ... as discovered by me nearly five years 
ago." A number of English puddlers had visited him 
to see his new process. "Several of them have since 
returned to England and may have spoken of my 
invention there." Kelly expected "shortly to have 
the in\ention perfected and bring it before the 
public." •'■ 

Bessemer's application for an American patent was 
granted during the week ending November 18, 1856, 
and Kelly began his interference proceedings some- 
time before January 1857.'* 

Kelly's witnesses were almost wholly from the ranks 
of employees or former employees. The only excep- 
tion was Dr. Alfred H. Champion, a physician of 
Eddyville. Dr. Champion describes a meeting in the 
fall of 1851 with "two or three practical Ironmasters 
and others" at which Kelly described his process and 
invited all present to see it in operation. He stated: 

The company present all differed in opinion from Mr. 
Kelly and appealed to me as a chemist in confirmation 
of their doubts. I at once decided that Mr. Kelly was 
correct in his Theory and then went on to explain the 
received opinion of chemists a century ago on this subject, 
and the present received opinion which was in direct 
confirmation of the novel theory of Mr. Kelly. I also 
mentioned the analogy of said Kelly's process in decarbon- 
ising iron to the process of decarbonising blood in the human 

" Scientific American, 1856, vol. 12, p. 43, Kelly's suggestion of 
piracy of his ideas was later enlarged upon by his biographer 
.John Newton Boucher, WiUuim Kelly: A true history oj llie so- 
called Bessemer process, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, 1924. 

»' Ibid., p. 82. Kelly's notice of his intention to take testimony 
was addressed to Bessemer on January 12, 1857. See papers 
on "Interference, William Kelly vs. Henry Bessemer Decision 
April 13, 1857." U. S. Patent Office Records. Quotations 
below arc from this file, which is now permanently preserved 
in the library of the U. S. Patent Office. 


The Doctor does not say, specifically, if he or any 
of the "company" went to see the process in operation. 
Kelly obtained aHidaviis from another seventeen 
witnesses. Ten of recorded their recollections of 
experiments conducted in 1847. Five described the 
1851 work. Two knew of or had seen both. One of 
the last group was John B. Evans who became forge 
manager of Kelly's Union Forge, a few miles from 
Suwanee. This evidence is of interest since a man in 
his position should have been in a position to tell some- 
thing about the results of Kelly's operations in terms 
of usable metal. Unfortunately, he limits hiiiLself lo 
a comment on the metal which had chilled around a 
tuyere which had been sent back to the Forge ("it was 
partly malleable and partly refined pig-iron") and to 
an account of a conversation with others who had 
worked some of Kelly's "good wrought iron" made 
by the new process. 

Only one of the witnesses (William Soden) makes 
a reference to the phenomenon which is an accom- 
paniment of the blowing of a converter: the prolonged 
and violent emission of sparks and flames which 
startled Bessemer in his first use of the process ^ and 
which still provides an exciting, if not awe-inspiring, 
interlude in a visit to a steel mill. Soden refers, 
without much excitement, to a boiling commotion, 
but the results of Kelly's "air-boiling'' were, evidently, 
not such as to impress the rest of those who claimed 
to have seen his furnace in operation. Only five of 
the total of eighteen of the witnesses say that they 
witnessed the operations. .Soden, incidentally, knew 
of seven different "air-boiling" furnaces, some with 
four and some with eight tuyeres, but he also neglected 
lo report on the use of the metal. 

As is well known, Kelly satisfied the Acting Com- 
missioner that he had "made this invention and 
showed it by drawings and experiment as early as 
1847," and he was awarded priority by the Acting 
Commissioner's decision of April 13, 1857, and U. S. 
Patent 17628 was granted him as of June 23, 1857. 
The Scientific American sympathized with Bessemer's 
realization that his American patent was "of no more 
value to him than so much waste paper" but took the 
opportunity of chastising Kelly for his negligence in 
not securing a patent at a much earlier date and ccm- 
plained of a patent system which did not require an 
inventor to luake known his discovery promptly. The 
journal advocated a "certain fixed time" after which 
such an inventor "should not be allowed to subvert 

w Bessemer, op cit. (footnote 7), p. 144. 


a patent granted to another who has taken proper 
measures to put the piihlic in possession of the in- 

Little authentic is known about Kelly's activities 
following the grant of his patent. His biographer "" 
does not document his statements, many of which 
appear to be based on the recollections of members of 
Kelly's family, and it is diHicult to reconcile some of 
them with what few facts are available. Kelly's 
own account of his invention,'"^ itself undated, asserts 
that he could "refine fifteen hundredweight of metal 
in from five to ten minutes," his furnace "supplying a 
cheap method of making run-out metal" so that 
"after trying it a few days we entirely dispensed with 
the old and troublesome run-out fires." '"^ This 
statement suggests that Kelly's method was intended 
to do just this; and it is not without interest to note 
that several of his witnesses in the Interference pro- 
ceedings, refer to bringing the metal "to nature," a 
term often used in connection with the finery furnace. 
If this is so, his assumption that he had anticipated 
Bessemer was based on a misapprehension of what the 
latter was intending to do, that is, to make steel. 

This statement leaves the reader under the impres- 
sion that the process was in successful use. It is to be 
contrasted with the statement quoted above (page 
43), dated September 1856, when the process had, 
clearly, not been perfected. In this connection, it 
should be noted that in the report on the Suwanee 
Iron Works, included in The iron manufacturers 
guide,^"* it is stated that "It is at this furnace that Mr. 
Kelly's process for refining iron in the hearth has 
been most fully experimented upon." 

"» Scifnlific American, 1857, vol. 12, p. 341. 

'»' Boucher, op. cit. (footnote 97). 

'°- U. S. Bureau of the Census, Report on tlie manu/arturets of llie 
United Slates at the lent/i census {June 7, 1SS0) . . ., Manufacture 
of iron and steel, report prepared by James M. Swank, special 
agent, Washington, 1883, p. 124. Mr. Swank was secretary 
of the American Iron and Steel Association. This material 
was included in his History oj the rnanujaclure oj iron in atl ages, 
Philadelphia, 1892, p. 397. 

"" Ibtd., p. 125. The run-out fire (or "finery" fire) was a 
charcoal fire "into which pig-iion, having been melted and 
partially refined in one fire, was run and further refined to 
convert it to wrought iron by the Lancashire hearth process," 
according to .^. K. Osborn, An encyclopaedia oj the iron and steel 
industry. New York, 1956. 

'"« J. P. Lesley, op. cit. (footnote 39), p. 129. The preface is 
dated April 6, 1859. The data was largely collected by Joseph 
Lesley of Philadelphia, brother of the author, during a tour 
of several monllis. .Since Suwanee production is given for 44 
weeks only of 1857 (i.e., through November 4 or 5, 1857) it is 
concluded that Lesley's visit was in the last few weeks of 1857. 

A major financial crisis affected United States 
business in the fall of 1857. It began in the first week 
of October and by October 31 the Economist (London) 
reported that the banks of the United States had 
"almost universally suspended specie payment." '"* 
Kelly was involved in this crisis and his plant was 
closed down. According to Swank,'"* some experi- 
ments were made to adapt Kelly's process to need of 
rolling mills at the Cambria Iron Works in 1857 and 
1858, Kelly himself being at Johnstown, at least in 
June 1858. That the experiments were not particu- 
larly successful is suggested by the lack of any Ameri- 
can contributions to the correspondence in the English 
technical journals. Kelly was not mentioned as 
having done more than interfere with Besscmer's first 
patent application. The success of the latter in 
obtaining patents'"" in the United States in November 
1856, covering "the conversion of molten crude iron 
. . . into steel or malleable iron, without the use of 
fuel . . ." also escaped the attention of l)oth Entjlish 
and .American WTiters. 

It was not until 1861 that the question arose as to 
what happened to Kelly's process. The occasion was 
the publication of an account of Bessemer's paper at 
the Sheffield meeting of the (British) Society of 
Mechanical Engineers on August 1, 1861. Accepting 
the evidence of "the complete industrial success" of 
Bessemer's process, the Scientific American '"* asked: 
"W'ould not some of our enterprising manufacturers 
make a good operation by getting hold of the [Kelly] 
patent and starting the manufacture of steel in this 

There was no response to this rhetorical question, 
but a further inquiry as to whether the Kelly patent 
"could be bought" '"'' elicited a response from Kelly. 
Writing from Hammondsville. Ohio, Kelly "" said, in 

I would say that the New England states and New York 
would be sold at a fair rale ... I removed from Kentuckv 

^"^ Economist (London), 1857, vol. 15, pp. 1129, 1209. 

'"* Swank, op. cit. (footnote 42), p. 125. John Fritz, in his 
Autobiography (New York, 1912, p. 162), refers to experiments 
during his time at Johnstown, i.e., between June 1854 and 
July 1860. The iron manufaiturer^s guide (see footnote 104) also 
refers to Kelly's process as having "just been tried wiih great 
success" at Cambria. 

">■ U. S. patents 16082, dated November 11, 1856, and 16083, 
dated November 18, 1856. Bessemer's unsuccessful application 
corresponded with his British patent 2321, of 1855 (see foot- 
note 98). 

"" Scientific .American, 1861, new sen, vol. 5, pp. 148153. 

'« I hid., p. 310. 

""/AiW., p. 343. 



about tlircf years ago. and now reside at New Salisbury 
about three miles from Haminondsville and sixty miles froin 
Pittsburg. Accept my thanks for your kind efforts in 
endeavoring to draw the attention of the community to the 
advantages of my process. 

This letter suggests that the Kelly jMocess had been 
dormant since 1858. Whether or not as a result of 
the publication of this letter, interest was resumed in 
Kelly's experiments. Captain Eber Brock Ward of 
Detroit and Z. .S. Diirfee of New Bedford, Massa- 
chusetts, obtained control of Kelly's patent. Durfee 
himself went to England in the fall of 1861 in an 
attempt to secure a license from Bessemer. He 
returned to the United .States in the early fall of 1862. 
assuming that he was the only "citizen of the United 
States'' who had even seen the Bessemer apparatus.'" 

In June, 1862, W^ F. Durfee, a cousin of Z. S. 
Durfee, was asked by Ward to report on Kelly's 
process. The report "- was unfavorable. "The 
description of [the apparatus] used by Mr. Kelly at 
his abandoned works in Kentucky satisfied me that it 
was not suited for an experiment on so large a scale 
as was contemplated at Wyandotte [Detroit]." 
Since it was "confidently expected that Z. S. Durfee 
would be successful in his efforts to purchase [Besse- 
mer's patents], it was thought only to be anticipating 
the acquisition of property rights ... to use such of 
his inventions as best suited the purpose in view." 

Thus the first "Bessemer" plant in the United 
States came into being without benefit of a license 
and supported only by a patent "'not suited" for a 
large experiment. Kelly seems to have had no part 
in these developments. They took some time to 
come to formation. Although the converter was 
ready by September 1862, the blowing engine was 
not completed until the spring of 1864 and the first 
"blow" successfully made in 1864. It may be no 
more than a coincidence that the start of production 
seems to have been impossible before the arrival in 

'" His claim is somewhat doubtful. Alexander Lyman 
Holley, who was later to be responsible for the design of most of 
the first Bessemer plants in the United States had been in 
England in 18.S9, 1860, and 1862. In view of his interest in 
ordnance and armor, it is unlikely that Bessemer could have 
escaped his alert obseivation. His first visit specifically in 
connection with the Bessemer process appears to have been in 
1863, but he is said to have begun to interest financiers and iron- 
masters in the Bessemer procc-ss after his visit in 1862 {Engineer- 
ing, 1882, vol. 33, p. 115. 

11- W. F. Durfee: "An account of the experimental steel 
works at Wyandotte, Michigan," Transactions of the American 
Society of Stechanical Engineers, 1884, vol. 6, p. 40 fl". 

this country of a \oung man, L. M. Hart, who had 
been trained in Bessemer operations at the plant of 
the Jackson Brothers at St. Seurin (near Bordeaux) 
France. The Jacksons had become Bcsscmcr's part- 
ners in respect of the French rights; and the rcciniit- 
ment of Hart suggests the possibility that it was from 
this French source that Z. S. Durfee obtained his 
initial technical data on the operation of the Bessemer 

During the organization of the plant at Wyandolte, 
Kell\- was called back to Cambria, probably by 
Daniel J. Morrell, who, later, became a partner with 
Ward and Z. S. Durfee in the formation of the KelK 
Pneumatic Process Company."* We learn from John 
E. Fry,"^ the iron moulder who was assigned to help 
Kelly, that — 

in 1862 Mr. Kelly returned to Johnstown for a crucial, 
and as it turned out, a final series of experiments by him 
with a rotative [Bessemer converter] made abroad and imported 
for his purpose. This converter embodied in its materials and 
construction several of Mr. Bessemer's patented factors, of 
which, up to the close of Mr. Kelly's experiments above 
noted, he seemed to have no knowledge or conception. .And 
it was as late as on the occasion of his return in 1862. to 
operate the experimental Bessemer converter, that he first 
recognized, by its adoption, the necessity for or the impor- 
tance of any after treatment of, or additions required by the 
blown metal to convert it into steel. 

Fry later asserted "* that Kelly's experiments in 
1862 were simply attempts to copy Bessemer's ineth- 
ods. (The possibility is under investigation that the 
so-called "pioneer converter" now on loan to the 
U. S. National Museum from the Bethlehem Steel 
Company, is the converter referred to by Fry.) 

William Kelly, in eflfect, disappeared frotti the 
record until 1871 when he applied for an extension 
of his patent of June 23, 1857. The application was 
opposed (by whom, the record does not state) on the 
grounds that the invention was not novel when it was 
originally issued, and that it would be against the 
public interest to extend its term. The Coinmissioner 

1" Research in the French sources continues. The arrival 
of L. M. Hart at Boston is recorded as of April 1, 1864, his 
ship being the SS A/riea out of Liverpool, England (.\rchivcs 
of the United States, card index of passenger arrivals 1849- 
1891 list No. 39). 

11* Swank, op. cit. (footnote 42), p. 409. 

'^^ Johnstown Daily Democrat, souvenir edition, autumn 
1894 (italics supplied). Mr. Fry was at the Cambria Iron 
Works from 1858 until after 1882. 

11' Engineering, 1896, vol. 61, p. 615. 



ruled that,"" on the first qucsiion. it was settled prac- 
tice of the Patent Ollice not to reconsider former de- 
cisions on questions of fact; the novehy of Kelly's 
invention iiad been re-examined when the patent 
was reissued in November 1857. Testimony showed 
that the patent was very valuable; and that Kelly 
"had been untirinij in his efforts to introduce it into 
use but the opposition of iron manufacturers and the 
amount of capital required prevented him from re- 
ceiving anythine; from his patent until within very 
few years past." Kelly's expenditures were shown to 
have amounted to $11,500, whereas he had received 
only $2,400. Since no evidence was filed in support 
of the public interest aspect of the case, the Commis- 
sioner found no substantial reason for denying the 
extension; indeed "very few patentees are able to 
present so strong grounds for extension as the appli- 
cant in the" 

In a similar application in the previous year, 
Bessemer had failed to win an extension of his U. S. 
patent 16082, of November 11, 1856, for the sole 
reason that his patent with which it had been 
made co-terminal had duly expired at the end of its 
fourteen years of life, and it would have been in- 
equitable to give Bessemer protection in the United 
States while British iron-masters were not under 
similar restraint. But if it had not been for this 
consideration, Bessemer "would be justly entitled to 
what he asks on this occasion." The Commissioner '"* 
ob.served". "It may be questioned whether [Be.s.semer] 
was first to discover the principle upon which his proc- 
ess was founded. But we owe its reduction to prac- 
tice to his untiring industry and perseverance, his 
superior skill and .science and his great outlay." 



Martien was probably never a serious contender for 
the honor of discovering the atmospheric process of 
making steel. In the ])resent state of the record, it 
is not an unreasonable a.ssumption that his patent 
was never seriously exploited and that the Rbbw 
Vale Iron Works hoped to use it, in conjunction with 
the Mushet patents, to upset Bessemer's patents. 

The position of Mushet is not so clear, and it is 
hoped that further research can eventually throw a 

clearer light on his relationship with the I".l)i)w Vale 
Iron Works. It may well be that the "opinion of 
metallurgists in later years" "'' is .sound, and liiat iioih 
Mushci and Bessemer had successfulK worked at the 
same proijlem. The study of Mushei's letters to the 
technical press and of the attitude of the editors of 
those papers to Mushet suggests the possibility that he, 
too, was used by Ebbw Vale for the pin-poses of their 
attacks on Bessemer. Mushet admits that he was not 
a free agent in respect of these patents, and the failure 
of Ebbw Vale to ensure their full life under English 
patent law indicates clearly enough that by 1859 the 
firm had realized that their position was not strong 
enough to warrant a legal suit for infringement 
against Bessemer. Their purchase of the Uchatius 
process and their final attempt to develop Martien's 
ideas through the Parry patents, which exposed them 
to a very real risk of a suit by Bessemer, are also indi- 
cations of the politics in the case. Mushet seems to 
have been a willing enough victim of Ebbw \'ale's 
scheming. His letters show an almost presumptuous 
assumption of the mantle of his father; while his 
sometimes absurd claims to priority of invention (and 
demonstration) of practically every new idea in the 
manufacturing of iron and steel progressively reduced 
the respect for his name. Bessemer claiiTis an impres- 
sive array of precedents for the use of manganese in 
steel making and, given his attitude to patents and his 
reliance on professional advice in this respect, he 
should perhaps, be given the benefit of the doubt. 
A dispassionate judgment would be that Bessemer 
owed more to the development work of his Swedish 
licensees than to Mushet. 

Kelly's right to be adjudged the joint insentor of 
what is now often called the Kelly-Bes.semer process is 
questionable.'^" Admittedly, he experimented in the 
treatment of molten metal with air blasts, but it is by 
no means clear, on the evidence, that he got beyond 
the experimental stage. It is certain that he never 
had the objective of making steel, which was Besse- 
mer's primary aim. Nor is there evidence that his 
process was taken beyond the experimental stage by 
the Cambria Works. The rejection of his "apparatus" 
by W. F. Durfee must have been based, to some extent 
at least, upon the Johnstown trials. There are strong 

'" Sec U. S. Patent Office, Decision of Commissioner of 
PatcnU, dated June 15, 1871. 

'" U. S. Patent OfTice, Decision of Commissioner of Patents 
dated February 12, 1870. 

'" William 1'. Jeans, The creators of the age of steel, London, 

'^'' Bessemer dealt with Kelly's claim to priority in a Utter to 
Engineering, 1896, vol. 61, p. 367. 



grounds then, for agreeing with one Iiistorian '^' who 

The fact that Kelly was an American is evidently the 
principal reason vvh\- certain popular writers have made 
much of an invention that, had not Bessemer developed 
his process, would never have attracted notice. Kelly's 
patent proved very useful to industrial interests in this 
country as a bargaining weapon in negotiations with 
the Bessemer group for the exchange of patent rights. 

'-' Louis C. Hunter, "The heavy industries since 1860," in 
H. F. Williamson (editor), Thf growth of the American economy. 
New York, 1944, p. 469. 

Kelly's suggestion '^^ that some British puddlef s may 
have communicated his secret to Bessemer can, prob- 
ably, never be verified. All that can be said is that 
Bessemer was not an ironman; his contacts with the 
iron trade were, so far as can be ascertained, non- 
existent until he himself invaded SheHield. So it is 
unlikely that such a secret would have been taken to 
him, even if he were a well-known inventor. 

'-- Later developed into a dramatic story by Boucher, op. cil. 
(footnote 97). 



Contributions from 
The Museum of History and Technology- 
Paper 4 

The Auburndale Watch Company 

Edwin A. Battison 







By Edwni A. Ban/son 


First American Attempt Toivard the Dollar Watch 

The lije of the pioneer has always been arduous. 
Not all succeed, and many disappear leaving no 
trace on the pages of history. Here, painstaking 
search has uncovered enough of the record to permit 
us to review the errors of design and manufacture 
that brought failure to the first attempt to produce a 
really cheap pocket ivatch. 

This paper is based on a study of the patent model 
of the Auhurndale rotary and other products of the 
company in the collections of the National Museum, 
and of other collections, including that of the author. 
The study comprises part of the background research 
for the hall of timekeeping in the Museum of History 
and Technology . 

The Author: Edwin A. Battison is associate 
curator of mechanical and civil engineering. Museum 
of History and Technology, in the Smithsonian 
Institution s United States National Museum. 

changeable parts had been in the minds of many 
men for a long time. Several attempts had been made 
to translate this conception into a reality. Success 
crowned the efforts of those working near Boston, 
Massachusetts, in the 1850's. The work done there 
formed the basis on which American watch making 
grew to such a point that by the 1870's watches of 
domestic manufacture had captured nearly all the 
home market and were reaching out and capturing 
foreign markets as well. In spite of this great achieve- 
ment there remained a large untapped potential 
market for a watch which would combine the virtues 
of close time keeping and a lower selling price. 
Only a radical departure in design could achieve this. 
Rivalry between the several existing companies had 
already produced an irreducible minimum price on 
watches of conventional design. 

The great obstacle to close rate in a modestly priced 
watch is the balance wheel. This wheel requires 
careful adjustment for temperature error and for 
poise. Of these two disturbing factors poise is the 
most annoying to the owner because lack of it makes 
the watch a very erratic timekeeper. .\ watch in 
which the parts are not poised is subject to a different 
rate for every position it Ls placed in. This position 
error, as it is called, can and often does a most 
erratic and unpredictable rate. Abraham-Louis 
Breguet, the celebrated Swiss-French horologist of 
Paris is credited with the invention, in 1801,' of his 
tourbillon, a clev'er way to circumvent this error. 

His solution was to mount the escapement in a 
frame or "chariot" which revolved, usuallv once a 

' Paul M. C:iiainbcrlain, //'t ahoul time. New York, 1947, 
p. 362. 



Figure i . — Breguet's Tourbillon. At C) is sliown the carriage which revolves with pinion B carrying iho escape- 
ment and balance around the stationary wheel G. (After G. A. Baillie, Watches, their history, decoration, and 

mechanism, London, Methuen, n.d.) 

minute, so that with each revolution all possible posi- 
tions were passed throus;h (fisj. 1). This gave the 
watch an average rate which was constant except for 
variations within the period of revolution of the 
chariot. Only a very skillful workman could, however, 
work with the delicacy necessary to produce such a 
mechanism. The result was that few were made and 
these were so expensive that it continued to be 
more practical to poise the parts in a conxentional 
mo\ement. The idea of revolving the entire train cf 
a watch, including the escapement, seems to have 
evolved surprisingly slowly from Breguet's basic 
invention cf the revolving escapement. In construct- 
ing a watch wherein the entire train revolves, no such 
delicate or precise workmanship is required as in the 
tourbillon. Due to the longer train of gears involved 
the period of re\olution is much slower. Position 
errors average out as certainly if not as frequently. 
In Bonniksen's "Karrusel" watch of 1893 - the dura- 
tion of a cycle is 52.5 minutes' while in the Auburn- 
dale Rotary which we are about to discuss the period 
of each revolution is IH hours. 

The Invention 

The patent model of Jason R. Hopkins" revolving 
watch, now in the U. S. National Museum,* was not 
the first in which the entire train revolved but it was 
a very no\el conception intended to reduce greatly 

- British patent 21421, srrantrd January 21, 1893. 
3 Chamberlain, op. cit. (footnote 1 I, pp. 229, 230. 
'Cat. no. 309025; U. S. patent 161513, July 20, 1875. 


the number of parts usually associated with any 
watch. This may be seen froin figures 2 and 3, where 
everything shown inside the ring gear revolves slowly 
as the main spring runs down. This spring is pre- 
vented from running down at its own speed by the 
train pinion seen in mesh with the ring gear. Through 
this pinion motion is imparted to the escape wheel and 
balance, where the rate of the watch is controlled. 
The balance, being planted at the center of revolu- 
tion, travels around its own axis, as in the tourbillon, 
at the speed with which the entire train revolves 
around the barrel arbor. This arbor turns only 
during winding. No dial or dial gearing is shown in 
the patent or exists in the patent model. The patent 
merely says, casually, "By means cf dial wheels the 
motion of the barrel may be communicated to hands 
and the time indicated in the usual manner." No 
fine finish or jeweling has been lavished on the 
model, the only jewels present being in the balance 
cock which was utilized as it came from its original 
watch with only minor modification to the shape of 
its foot. Apparently the balance wheel itself is also 
a relic of the same or a similar conventional watch. 
There is no jeweling in the escapement or on the 
other end of the balance staff. In spite of this the 
model runs very actively and will overbank if wound up 
very far. The beat of the escapement is two per 
second and the movement revolves once in 20 minutes. 
There are two great faults in the model. First is 
the lack of an adequate bearing for the barrel to 
turn on. There is only one very short bearing a long 
way removed from the point of engagement between 


Figure 2. — Patem Drawing of the Hopkins 
Watch. Tlic mainspring barrel E, of a very 
large diameter in proportion to the diameter of the 
watch, occupies nearly the full diameter of the 
movement. The spring itself, narrower and much 
longer than usual, is made in the patent inodel 
by riveting two ordinary springs together end to 
end. Over this barrel and attached to the sta- 
tionary frame of the watch is placed a large thin 
ring A. cut on its inner diameter with 120 teeth. 
Near its edge the barrel /s carries a stud g on which 
runs a pinion of 10 in mesh with the ring gear A. 

the pinion and internal gear, and no adequate sup- 
port is given the barrel, with the result that it tends 
to deflect from the ideal or true position and to bind. 
This condition is aggravated by the fact that the ring 
gear was made by cutting its teeth on an angle to 
the axis around which it is to revolve, using only a 
saw of appropriate width. The teeth were then 
rounded-up to form by hand in a separate operation 
which by its very nature means that the teeth are 
not exactly alike. This lack of uniformity of the ring 
gear coupled with an entirely inadequate bearing for 
the barrel contributes to rather erratic transfer of 
power. These irregular teeth would not, of course, 
be a factor in factory-made watches where suitable 
machinery would be available for the work. 

The second fault is in the ratio between the time cf 
one revolution and the number of revolutions neces- 
sary for a day's run. Three turns of the spring are, 
of course, required to run the watch for an hour, since 
the barrel and train revolve three times in that length 
of time. If we choose to have the watch run for 30 
hours on a winding, and this leaves but a small safetv 

On this pinion is a wheel of 80 driving a pinion of 
6 on the escape-wheel arbor. The 1 5-tooth escape 
wheel locks on a spring detent and gives impulse 
to the balance in one direction only, being a con- 
ventional chronometer escapement. The inter- 
mediate wheel and pinion, balance wheel, and 
balance cock have been adapted from a Swiss 
bar movement of the time. 

Figure 3. — Original Patent Model of the Hopkins 
Watch, U. S. Patent 161513, July 20, 1875, now in 
the U. .S. National Museum {cat. no. 309025). 




— rTr'T-J>^^^"" "5 

^,..„..^ .. .., ,^| ,,, I M I 1 1 1 I t i':\\ "t'l I IJT] I I'lj^S |j. 

factor, then we see that this will require 90 turns of 
the main spring, a manifest impossibility in view of 
the space available.^ 

^ Those who ha\c seen the Watcrbuiy watch, w liich developed 
from this design, may be drawn to the conckision that this ex- 
plains why it took so long to wind the Waterbury. Such is not 
really the case; in the Waterbury the winding wheel (wliich is 
on the outer rim of the barrel) was nearly as large as the inside 
diameter of the case while the pinion engaging with it was of 
only nominal diameter. This meant that one turn of the wind- 
ing crown wound the barrel a much smaller fraction of a 
revolution than in a watch of conventional design. 

Figure 5. — Hopkins' Bal.^nce Device, 
the subject of U. S. patent 165830. This and the 
device illustrated in figure 4 originally were sub- 
mitted together to the Patent Office on June 9, 1875, 
and later were divided into two patents. 


nKO.:i:m:.i^ ^ 



Figure 4. -Dr.avving from L'. .S. P.\ 165831, 
showing Hopkins' first design improvement, an arbor 
for the barrel and train to turn on and the balance 
displaced from center. 

Probably no attempt was made to produce a 
finished and practical watch at this time, although 
Hopkins, the inventor, was an actual watchmaker as 
well as a retail jeweler, with premises virtually in the 
shadow of the Patent Office. He was a native of 
Maine "" and had been estai)lished in Washington 
since 1863, or perhaps some time in 1862.' 

Developing the Invention 

Edward .\. Locke had long been seeking a simple 
watch adapted to easy manufacture and a selling price 
of three to four dollars. While on a trip to Washing- 
ton his attention was drawn to the Hopkins watch by 
William D. Colt of Washington.' A result of this 
meeting appears to have been the issuance to Jason 

' District of Columbia death record 145,013. 

' Hopkins is not in the W'aihinglon and Gcorgttown directory of 
1860 or 1862, and 1861 was not available to check. Starting 
with 1863 he is listed each year through 1871. Starting with 
1872 Boyd's Directory of the District of Columbia lists Hopkins as 
a resident each year (including 1902, the year of his death at 
84 years) except 1877, when he was out of the city in connec- 
tion with the exploitation of his rotary watch patents. Carl V\ . 
Drcpperd, American clocks and clockmakers (Garden City, N.^ ., 
1947), in referring to Hopkins, says, "Lincoln, Mc. 1840's - 
1850's: Bangor, Mo., to 1862. Inventor of the .\uburndale 
Watch. .Also manufactured pianos and clock cases." 

s Chas. .S. Crossman, ".\ complete history of watch and clock 
making in America," Jnvelers Circular and Horological Reiieu, 
January 1888, pp. 400, 401. This history ran as a continuinc 
series of short articles appearing over a period of years. In his 
sketch of the Waterbury Watch Co., Crossman gives the name 
as William D. C^jates, a name not found in Boyd's Directory of the 
District oj Columbia for 1875. The directory docs, however, 
contain the name of William D. Colt, a patent attorney. 


R. Hopkins of two patents," in both of which half 
rights were assigned to William D. Colt. Fatcni 
165831, relates to a barrel arbor for watches. The 
arbor will ix' seen (fig. 4) to consist of two parts, one 
telescoped within the other and the composite arbor 
B-C supported at each end by the irame of tlie watch. 
The patent text limits itself to a bare description of 
the arbor. In the light of what we have seen of the 
shortcomings of the original model, however, the 
patent drawings tell that much more had been accom- 
plished on the general design of a more workable 
rotary watch. 

\ square on arl)or C at the back of the watch permits 
winding the main spring, which attaches to the 
largest diameter of C, a ratchet or winding click being 
supplied just under support F. The inner or front 
part B of the composite arbor projects from the front 
of the movement and re\()l\es at the speed of the 
barrel arbor, which speed is not specified. Also, 
looking at the perspective view, we see that while the 
chronometer escapement has been retained, the 
balance has been placed eccentrically to make room 
for the center arbor. The balance now describes an 
orbit around the center of revolution. No driving 
train is shown, it being irrelevant to the patent, biu 
there seems to be ample room for two intermediate 
wheels and their pinions between the escape wheel 
and the train cock boss, .seen at the upper right in the 
perspective view of figure 4. Adding one more wheel 
and pinion to the train would have the effect of 
reducing the number of revolutions required of the 
spring barrel. We have seen from examination of the 
patent model of the Hopkins rotary that this was 
necessary not only to reduce the number of turns of 
the main spring and barrel but also to reduce the 
force transmitted to the escapement. There seems 
little reason from the foregoing oKserva lions and con- 
siderations to doubt that these modifications had been 
realized by the time of this patent. Again no dial gear- 
ing is shown. If the need for special gearing existed 
at this time it seems strange that it was not covered by 
patent as was done in the later patent'" assigned 
to William B. Fowlc. The only way to avoid special 
gearing would be to revolve the barrel and train each 
hour so that the minute hand could travel with ihem 
as it travels with the center wheel in conventional 
watches. Once this condition was set up, the usual 
dial gearing would apply. 

Companion patent 165830 (see fig. 5) covers a 
mechanism to prevent overljanking of the balance 
wheel. |)rimarilv of a chronometer escapement. This,, was aimed at making it possible to use the 
escapement in connection with a mainspring of 
greatly varying power. We have seen ihat this condi- 
tion of imeven power existed in the first Ho|)kins 
watch. \\ hile the condition was greatly improved in 
the sect)n(l model (seen in fig. 4), it was surelv present 
to some extent, as it is a.ssociated with every S|)ring. 
Overbanking protection may well have continued to 
be necessary, particularly if the gear ratio between 
esca[)ement and l)arrel was low enough to permit 
hourly rotation of the barrel. The features co\ered 
by this patent were originally submitted as part of 
what later became patent 165831. Examination of 
the original manuscript patent file " shows that the 
jwtent application was separated into two on the 

Figure 6. — Drawing from U. .S. P.vtent lygoig 
showing Hopkins' device to prevent the tripping 
of a chronometer escapement. 

suggestion of the patent examiner, who pointed oiu 
that two distinct and separate mechanisius were 
involved, either of which could be used without the 

These two patents, which actually started out as one, 
api^ear to represent the watch as it was when Hopkins 
went to Waterbury, Clonnecticut. where he again met 
Edward .\. Locke. They submitted this improved 
w^atch model to the Benedict and Burnhani Manu- 
facturing Co., which advised not manufacturing it 
until it was further developed. Hopkins went with 
his watch from there to Boston, where he conferred 
with George Merrilt who. like l.ocke. was interested 

' U. S. patents 165830 and 165831, granted July 20, 1875. 
'»U. S. patent 186838, January 30, 1877. 

" Patent file 165831, records of the Patent Office 
National Archives, Washington, D. C. 

in the 



ill sjcttinsi into the inanutacturc of a low-jiricccl watch. 
Merritt ma\- have been the senior member of the 
Locke-Merritt team or may simply have had more 
faith than his associates in I lopkins and his watch. 
At any rate, he advanced expense money while further 
efforts at improvement were made.'- Hopkins' 
absence from the Washington city directory of 1877 
is perhaps explained by this work he was doing on his 
[latent. While this was completed to Hopkins' satis- 
faction, it still fell short of Merritt's idea of practicality, 
and the latter abandoned the idea of manufacturing 
the watch ;'^ what had started out as a very simple 
watch of few parts grew, with every effort to make it 

tion was made for the patent (165830) to prevent 
o\crbanking. The cash book of William B. Fowie of 
Auburndale. Massachusetts," tells us that he bought 
half of William D. Colt's half-interest in the Hopkins 
rotary in March 1876, partly for cash but including a 
royalty on each watch made. Half this ro\alt\' was 
to go to Hopkins, a quarter to William D. C;olt, and 
a quarter to William B. Fowie. Does patent 179019, 
issued June 20, 1876, to Hopkins, who as.signed it on 
June 10, 1876, to Fowie," represent the last improve- 
ment offered to Merritt? It covers a device actuated 
by a spur on a balance staff to lock the detent against 
tripping when in one position and to permit normal 

Figure 7.- -Part ok rnii Drawings fro.m L'. S. 
Patent 186838, showing the winding and 
.setting mechanism very nearly as it was applied 
in the Auburndale rotarv. 

workable, more and more complicated by in\ olved and 
expensive detail. It appears that Hopkins did not 
possess the rare gift of improvement by simplification. 
This is a rare gift, and one seldoin possessed b\- an 
individual very closely and intensely involved in the 
minute details of a given problem. 

How long this period of development and experi- 
mentation required is unreported. It could hardly 
have started before early June of 187.S. when applica- 

'- Grossman, op. ctt. (footnote 8), January 1888, p. 32. 
" Ih,d., p. 33. 

operation of the chronometer escapement when in 
the other position (see fig. 6). Another patent applied 

" William B. Fowlc's "Cash book," commcncfd January 1, 
1873. and closed February 21, 1882, plus "Cash Book #5 
Leaves 1 to 20 inclusive. .\\\ that were used up to my failure 
on August 4, 1883," are in the author's possession. They 
contain many entries on the "Watch .\dventurc'" and later 
".\ub Watch Co." mixed in with other entries referring to 
everything from killing pigs to extensive stock, bond, and real 
estate transactions. 

"^ U. S. Patent Office digest of assignments, vol. H9\', p. 13, 
stored at Fianconia, \"irginia. Accession no. 57.A393, 



Figure 8. — Remaining Drawings from U. S. 
Patent 186838, showing the dial gearing used 
in the Auburndale rotarv. 

f \ \ 1 1 

\^ 4 


for on January 12. 1876, was in i)rospcct and finally 
issued as no. 186838 on January 30, 1877, assigned to 
William B. Fowlc on November 21. 1876.'" This is 
much the most practical and useful patent in the 
series. A comparison of these (see figs. 7 and 8) with 
the Auburndale rotary watch (see fig. 9) shows a 
remarkable similarity between the inventor's concep- 
tion and the product eventually manufactured. A 
practical center arbor to support and guide the entire 

i« Ibid., p. 76. 

Figure g.- .\ibirndai 1; Rotary Watch Movement. 
(In the author's collection.) 

rotating mechanism is here combined with a stem- 
winding and le\er-setting mechanism and dial gearing 
in a well thought out arrangement. 

Here, where the story of the Hopkins w atch diverges 
from the interests who later brought out the ri\al 
Waterbury watch, it seems appropriate to call the 
reader's attention to the basic points of novelty and 
merit in the Hopkins watch which carried over to 
what became the Waterbury, somewhat as an 
hereditary characteristic passes from generation to 
generation. Previous writers have realized that one 
of these w-atchcs led to the other and have grouped 
them together because of the rotating feature which 
they shared in common. Beyond this point they have 
treated the watches as though they had nothing in 
common. .Actually several basic features of the Hop- 
kins watch existed in both: the long narrow spring in 
a barrel approximately filling one side of the watch 
case, a train rotating in the center of the watch and 
driven by a planetary pinion in mesh with a gear 
fixed to the stationary part of the watch, a slow beat 
escapement, and probably the hourly rotation of the 
train and escapement. When these details appeared 
in the first watches manufactured for Messrs. Locke 
and Merritt by the Benedict and Burnham Manu- 
facturing Co. and later the ^Vaterbury W'atch Co., 
they were vastly changed in detail and much 
better adapted to production, although still 
basically the same. 

The story of Hopkins' rotary watch now enters an 
entirely new setting with new financial backing which, 
however, had no apparent experience or background 



Figure lo. WiiiiAM B. {•'owi.K, sponsor of the 
Auburndale Watch Co., after an engraving in S. F. 
Smith, History of Newton, .Massachusetts (Boston, 1880). 

in mechanical work, much less watch manufacturins;. 
Those with watchmaking experience who were 
brought into this new organization unquestionably 
did their best, based on past experience confined to 
conventional watches of much higher grade. Judging 
from the products turned out, however, they had great 
difficulty in making a clean f)reak with their past and 
in producing a satisfactory low-priced watch of new 
and radical concept. The market for watches, which 
had been depressed, was at this time reviving a little. 
The .Xeiiion Journal," referring to the American Watch 
Co. at Waltham reported: "The hands employed 
in the caseroom and the machinists have been called 
in. All the works are to be started the first of 

The New Sponsor 

William Bentley Fowle (fig. 10), new partner with 
Hopkins and Colt in the watch, w-as born in Boston, 
Massachusetts on July 27, 1826. His father, William 
B. Fowle, Senior, a well-known Boston teacher and 

'' .•\ugust 26, 1876, p. 2., under the heading of Waltham 
Items, '.Signs of a revival of business at the Watch Works in 



Figure 1 1 . — The Two Lever Escvpements Used in the .■\uburndale Rot.ary. Note, 
in addition to the escapement, the absence of banking pins and the metal balance jewel in the 
escapement at the left, which is from watch No. 176. (Both watches in the author's collection.) 


T ; 

educator, had variousK been a bookseller and con- 
ductor of a "Female Monitorial School." '* The 
junior William B. Fowie we have first located as a 
ticket master with the Boston and Worcester Railroad 
in 1848," and he retained tliis lisiinQ; in the directory 
through 1851. Starting in 18.52 and continuing 
through 1862, with no indication of employer or 
occujjation, he had an oflice at 9 Merchants E.xchange. 
In 1860 and 1862 he was a member of the Boston 
Common Council, and was president of that l)()dy in 
1865. In 1862, after the .second battle of Bull Run, 
he raised an infantry company for the 43rd Massa- 
chusetts V'olunteers and was mustered in, September 
24, 1862, with the rank of captain. From December 
7, 1862, to March 4, 1863, he was commandant of the 
military post at Beaufort, North Carolina. He then 
reported to his regiment. On June 24, 1863, he was 
left sick at New Bern, North Carolina, by his company 
bound for Fortress Monroe. On July 21 he rejoined 
his company at Boston, Ma.s.sachusetts, in time to be 
mustered out on July 30 at the expiration of his nine 
months' enlistment."" 

In the 1864 Boston directory we find him listed as 
treasurer of the Bear Valley Coal Co., and the 
North Mountain Coal Co., with an ofRce at 38 City 
Exchange. This association with the coal business 
continued widt changes unimportant to our story 
through the directories until 1877, in wiiich year the 
name is dro]3ped from the Boston directory, not to re- 
appear until the directory of 1880, where he is listed 
at "Herald Building, watches and timers." This 
was apparently the sales office. The .\ewton directory 
of 1877 drops its previous listing of coal after Mr. 
Fowle's name and first mentions the .\ui:)urndal(' 
Watch Co. 2" In 1866 Mr. Fowlc established his 
home, Tanglewood, in .Auburndale, a village in 
Newton not far from his boyhood home at West 
Newton and on the bank of the Charles River about 
two miles upstream from the Waltham Watch Co. 
He served the town of Newton as selectman from 
1869 through 1871, was an alderman in 1877, and 
mayor in 1878 and 1879.-'- 

" 5/im/iion'x Boston directory, 1840. 

'» Adams' new directory of the City of Boston, 1847 -48, 1849-50, 

^ Records of Veterans .Administration, pension application 
666 675, National Archives, Washington, D. C. 

" The Newton directory at this time was issued biennially on 
odd numbered years. 

" S. F. Smith, History oj Newton, Massachusetts, Boston 1880, 
p. 833. 

Figure I2. — .\ 24-HouR Di.\i. for tlie rotary walch. 
(In the author's colicclion.) 

William Atherton Wales of New ^'ork is credited 
with introducing Mr. Fowlc to the Hopkins watch. 
No clue has come to li^lu on what connection there 
was between Hopkins and Wales, who had been a 
partner in the large watch-importing liouse of Giles, 
Wales and Co., in New Wnk and later a large stock- 
holder in the United States Watch Co. of Marion, 
New Jersey, which had only ceased operation in 1874. 
A patent -' had been issued to Fayette S. Giles of 
New York, the leading figure in the United States 
W'atch Co., for an improvement in stem-winding 
watches. This had presumably been available to 
his company. In this winding mechanism a crown 
])inion driven by a clutch on the stem engages with 
a large ring gear, having 1 10 internal teeth, which in 
turn drives a gear on the barrel arbor. The author 
has seen no watch, exce]3t the patent model, -^ con- 
taining this device, but the pillar plate of many of 
the United States Watch Co. movements were cut 
out, apparently to receive this ring gear. 

The expense of cutting so many internal teeth in 
steel seems reason enous^h to explain why this patent 
did not become the basis for all their stem-wound 
models. Steel is far more difficult to cut than brass, 
resulting in a much greater consimiption of time and 
cutters, both of which re[iresent money to the manu- 
facturer. In the patent model these ring-gear teeth 
have been cut by a milling ciuter which did not pass 

s' U. .S. patent 65208, issued May 28, 1867, all rii;hts assigned 
to Giles, Wales and Co., March 4, 1867 and recorded March 8, 
1867, at U. .S. Patent Office, liber G9, p. 100. 

-' In the U. .S. National Museum, cat. no. 309021. 



Figure 13. — The Auburndale Timer with top plate, 
balance, and control mechanism removed to show 
the train. The conventional barrel has 66 teeth 
that drive a pinion on the so-called lo-minute staff. 
This staff carries on the dial end the pointer, which 
revolves in 10 minutes, as indicated on the dial. 
.'Mso on this staff is an unspoked wheel of 80 driving 
the center, or minute, stalF through a pinion of 8. 
In addition to the sweep hand (or hands in the case 
ol the split model) indicating seconds up to a duration 
of one minute, there is a wheel of 80 driving a pinion 
of 8 on an intermediate staff. A wheel of 60 on this 
staff drives a pinion of 10 on the escape-wheel stall. 
A pointer on this last staff also carries the hand that 
indicates fractions of a second. (In the author's 

through the ring and across the face of the teeth. This 
produced a gear somewhat resembling an internal 
bevel gear, one which could have only the merest 
contact with its mating pinion. To make a durable 
gear for this application it would be necessary to pass 
the cutter through the ring in line with the gear a.xis. 
This would require a special or, at least, radically 
modified gear-cutting machine with a cutter arbor 
shorter than the inside diameter of the gear. Into 
this short space the spindle bearings and means of 
dri\ing the spindle would have to be crowded, along 
with the cutter. Hopkins faced a problem similar to 
this in cutting the ring gear for his watch, except that 
the brass gear needed for the rotary watch could be 
cut far more easily and quickK . This may be the link 
which brought \\'ales and the defunct United States 
Watch Co. into the .Auburndale picture. .Another 
plausible link between Fowle and Wales in\ol\es a 
patent ■' Wales received for a pulley. This, the now 
familiar device of interlocking conical sections so 
commonly used in variable speed V-belt dri\es, was 
assigned to G. E. Lincoln of Boston. Massachu.setts. 
George E. Lincoln was treasurer of the Mammoih 
\'ein Consolidated Coal Co. at Boston in 186.S, with 
an office adjoining that of Fowle. In addition he 
ijoarded for many years at .\ubmndale,"^ and he 
apparently owned the buildings about to be con\crted 
into a watch factory. Thus we sec that Lincoln ma\- 
\er\ well have been the one who brought Fowle and 
Wales together. 

William B. Fowle's cash book shows, on JiiK' 14, 
1876, payment to Geo. E. Lincoln "For large building 

" U. S. patent 179746. is.sucdjuly 11, 1876. 
'* Boston directory, 1865 through 1872. 

used $200" and "For .small building used S30." On 
July 21 is an entry "Milo Lucas bal. of Building Con- 
tract $1605.25." These with an entry on the pre- 
ceding June 30, "Milo Lucas on a/c Contract for 
Building" seem, with a July 25 entry "W. E. C 
Fowler, Painting Factory S64.91," to cover the 
expense for the bare factory. The buildings, two 
stories high and measuring 40 x 20 and 32 x 20 feet, 
respectively, were located on the Weston bank of the 
Charles River, opposite Fowle's home, from which 
they could be reached by a private ferry. This 
pleasant bucolic location was not far upstream fronj 
that originally sought by the Boston Watch Co. when 
that firm was looking for a spot to move to from 
Roxburs in 1854. The situation of the factory was 
described as a wild and secluded glen." 
Another account ■"* says: 

The well appointed little steamer U'fiiU Suan, owned and 
commanded by a Captain Gibbs. veteran of the last war, 
now plies regularly between Waltham and .\uburndale 
Bridge, carrying picnic parties, etc. . . . Along the banks 
of the river arc located the summer residences of Messrs. 
Cutter and Merrill, the elegant residence of R. M. Pulsifer, 
Ma\or of Newton, the splendid mansion of Ex-Mayor 
Fowle, the Benyon mansion and others. ... At sunset the 
river is alive with canoes, row-boats, shells and sailboats 
tilled with ladies and gendemen adding, with the delightful 
music, greatly to the natural charm of the scenery. 

-■ M. F. Swoitscr, King's handbook of .Vavlon, Massachusetts, 
Boston, .Mass., 1889, p. 203. 
2* Smith, op. cit. (foolnote 22), p. 20. 

471274—59 5 


Figure 14. — Escape Wheel and Pallets of an 
Auburndale timer. With four pins in the escape 
wheel, this particular one beats eighths of a second. 
(In author's collection.) 

'I'his id\llic [sasloral scttini; .surely must have been a 
joy to all connected with the little watch factory. It 
seems to typify the atmosphere of wealth and leisure 
into which the infant indiLstry was brought without 
adequate study of the jiroblcuLS it would be called 
upon to surmount. 

The Auburndale maehinery came from the United 
States Watch Co. factory at Marion, New Jersey, 
which, as we have seen, was closed in 1874. William 
A. \Vales, who was associated with Fowle in the Au- 
burndale "adventure," had been secretary, treasurer, 
and director of this company. Most of the machinery 
came from George E. Hart and Co., of Newark, which 
had taken over much of the Company's equipment, 
eventually selling it to other factories. Warren E. 
Ray, a neighbor of Mr. Fowle's, commenced as mana- 
ger of the factory in July 1876, and died suddenly of 
heart disease about October 1 of that year. He was 
soon succeeded by Mr. James H. Gerry, who had gone 
from Waltham to Newark in 1863 to superintend the 
building of the original machines for the United States 

The employees were chief!)' drawn from other fac- 
tories, principally the neighboring American Watch 
Co. at Waltham, and the defunct United States Watch 
Co., while some who needed no specific watchmaking 
skills perhaps never had worked in a watch factory be- 
fore. Names, not already mentioned, that have been 
preserved are: George H. Bourne, L. C. Brown, Abra- 
ham Craig, Frederick H. Eaves, Henry B. Fowle, Ben- 
jamin F. Gerry, William H. Guest, Jose Guinan, Sadie 
Hewes, Isaac Kilduff (the watchman), Justin Hinds, 
E. Moebus, James O'Connell (the stationary engi- 

neer), Edwin I 1, I'ciiA, Frank \. Robbius. John Rose, 
Thomas W. She|)hard, William H. A. Sinunons, Al- 
fred Simpson, Thomas Steele, Oscar L. Strout, and 
George Wood. These, compiled from several sources,^ 
represent only a few of the men who contributed their 
knowledge and skill to the enterprise; they are listed 
in alphabetical order because it has been found impos- 
sible to arrange them accurately according to position, 
magnitude of contribution, or length of service. 

Of the five Hopkins patents '" the first and the last 
are the ones covering the essential elements used in 
the Auburndale product. The two patents assigned 
in half to William D. Colt apparently were never used, 
nor does the device shown in figure 6 seem to have 
been used, although these unused patents are listed on 
the Auburndale movements. Now that the watch was 
in the hands of men accustomed to making watches, 
some modifications dictated by their e.xjieriencc and 

-° The sources used were Grossman, op. cil. (footnote 8), De- 
cember 1887; Henry G. Abbot, Watch Jactories of America, Chi- 
cago, 1888, pp. 93-95: Newton direclory (or 1375, 1877, 1879, 1881, 
1883, 1884-85, and 1885; VValtham-Watirtown directory ior 1877- 
78, 1880, 1882, 1884; and William B. Fowle, "Cash book" (see 
footnote 14). 

3" U. S. patents 161513, applied for November 13, 1873, is- 
sued March 30, 1875; 165830, applied for July 14, 1875, issued 
July 20, 1875; 163831, applied for June 9, 1875, issued July 20, 
1875; 179019, applied for May 25, 1876, issued June 20, 1876; 
and 186838, applied for January 12, 1876, issued January 30, 
1877. A French patent was issued to Hopkins on September 
12, 1876, and a Belgian patent on September 30, 1876. For 
lack of records neither has been positively identified but pre- 
sumably they are for the same device covered in U. .S. patent 

Figure 15. — \'ERaE and Lever for an Auburndale 
timer. The one on the left beats eighths of a second; 
thai on the right beats cpiarters, (In author's 



l)y considerations of expediency in manufacture were 
made. The movement that issued was 18 size, rather 
thick, cased at the factory in a nickel case made by the 
Thiery Watch Case Co. of Hoston, Massachu.setts. 
In the winding and setting mechanisms, some changes 
in details were made with respect to those shown in 
figure 7. The dial is mounted by means of a rim 
which snaps o\er the edge of the movement as on a 
high-grade Swiss watch of the same era. The usual 
dial feet, if used, would have interfered with the rota- 
tion of the movement. For the same reason, of 
course, there is no dial indicating .seconds. 

Five jewels are found in most instances, two cap 
jewels and two hole jewels for the balance staff and a 
jeweled impulse pin. One of the faults of the move- 
ment is that the cap and hole jewels on the balance are 
not separable for cleaning. After the jewels were in- 
serted part of the setting was spun down over them, 
making the assembly permanent. A few movements 
with only one jewel are known, the cap and hole 
jewels being metal '"jewels"' likewise set under a spun- 
over rim. \Vhether or not the impulse jewel found in 
these last-mentioned movements is original or a later 
intrusion remains undetermined. It is easy to con- 
cei\e that the factory would see no more necessity for 
an impulse jewel than for other jewels. 

The lever escapement is the only one known to have 
been used, but two varieties of this are found (see 
fig. 11). One is a standard club-tooth lever with 
banking pins, the other, much more interesting because 
unconventional, has pointed pallets and all the lift 
on the escape wheel, which has very short stubby 
teeth, very much like the wheel of a pin-pallet escape- 
ment. No banking pins are used, the banking taking 
place between the pallets and the wheel. An exam- 
ination of a number of these watches, with serial 
numbers ranging from 46 to 507, '' reveals no corre- 
lation between the serial number and the style of 
escapement, from which one may conclude that the 
pointed pallet escapement was originally used; later 
four balance jewels were added and the escapement 
changed to the conventional club-tooth pattern. As 
complaints came in about the defective running of 

" No. 46 courtesy of the late C. .A. Ilbert (tliis watch is now 
in the Science Museum, .South Kensington, London); 124, 176, 
224, 241 in the author's collection: 161 .\bbot, op cil. (footnote 
29); 250 Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan; 361 F. Earl 
Hackett; 387 Dr. .\lfred G. Cossidente; 403 Dr. VV. B. Stephens; 
423 Grossman, op cil. (footnote 8); and an unnumbered move- 
ment illustrated in American Jeweler, December 1898, vol. 17, 
no. 12, p. 371. 


the watch these changes were apparently substituted 
at the factory in customers' watches. The movements 
with the pointed-pallet escapement seldom show much 
wear; on the other hand, watch no. 224,''- which has 
the conventional escapement and five jeweb, is very 
much worn and must have run for many years. 

These watches are stem wound by turning opposite 
to the usual direction and are set through the winding 
crown after actuating a setting lever located under 
the front bezel. The plates, bridges, and ring gear 
are nickel-plated and highly buffed, making a very 
showy movement, the only instances of such a finish 
on watches in the author's experience. In figure 12 
is shown a 24-hour dial to fit the movement. Special 
dial gearing would be required for the hour hand to 
accompany this dial. 

^E^HT.UW«*^il^j(;^i ^J 








1') ;jv ■ 




^v ^ 


"■f 1 . - 


y . •!> 

*-- \^ * 

■ i| 



H 1 

r" ^H 

■^ pD 




o:>» / 

^^^^ X. 


,v # 

^^■■k ^. 






Figure 1 6. — Dial for }io-Second Model Auburndalc 
timer. (In author's collection.) 

The first of these watches were placed on the market 
in 1877, priced at $10.00 to the trade. Soon com- 
plaints came in that they were defective in operation 
and many were returned. We have seen from the 
specimens examined that there seems to have been 
no established model produced in quantity. The dial 
and the number of jewels varied, as well as the escape- 
ment, suggesting that the owners were groping for a 
salable variant of the design for which they had tooled 
the factory. Probably the pointed pallet escapement 
was u.sed first, it being the less expensive of the two. 

"In the author's collection. 


In addition to the saving cfTcclcd by not requiring 
bani^ing pins, the escape wheel was much cheaper to 
cut, as the teeth were very short and strong (see fig. 
11). Since tlie banking took place between the pallets 
and the escape wheel, there was no adjustment for 
the amount of slide; and since the watches were not 
made to close tolerances, the slide was necessarily 
excessive and consequently power consuming. The 
conventional club-tooth escapement was probably 
substituted as less troublesome, although the banking 
pins were fixed and could only be adjusted by bending 
them. The pallets remained solid steel, without 
adjustable stone inserts. 

.\i this stage of affairs approximately $140,000 had 
been invested in the venture, the market was already 
glutted with conventional watches which enjoyed 
the confidence of retailers, and the Auburndale 
Rotary had won a bad re[)utation. The success of 
any watch depends largely on the confidence the 
retail dealers have in it. They are looking for a 
product easy to sell at an attractive profit as well as 
one that will stay sold and create a satisfied customer. 
Fowle was very much disa])|)ointed; before 
going into the venture he had been advised that he 
could expect to ])roduce 200 watches per day on an 
(■X|)rnditure of SI 6,000.^'' The watches reached the 
marki'i at a time, the fall of 1877, almost coincidental 
with api)lication by 1). Azro A. Buck for [latents 
on \vhal was to become the Walcrbury rotary. 
These j>atents represented a new and economically 
sound expression of the basic ideas of Hopkins. The 
W'aterbury a.ssociates immediately commenced work 
aimed at getting their watch on the market Ijv June 
1878.'^ News of this certainly reached Aul)urndale 
where they were not only well aware of the cost of 
producing their rotary but were also aware of the 
strict cost and performance studies which Locke 
and Merrill would apply lo any wauh before they 
would invest in it. Knowledge of this very able 
and well organized rival, coupled with the troubles 
experienced in manufacturing and selling the Au- 
burndale Rotary, seem to account for the decision 
to abandon it. It was unfortunate that the timing 
of events happened just as ii did for a little more 
work on the Auburndale and the tools for making it 
would probably have placed it on a firm footing in 
the trade, although obviously it could never compete 
with what eventually became the low-jiriced watch. 

really a sealed-down alarm clock minus the alarm 

It is said that about one thousand of the "Rotaries" 
were made. The highest .serial number to come to 
the author's attention, 507, may indicate ihai only 
a part of the watches started were finished. 

.Accounts agree ''^ that the next product of the 
factory was a "Timer" containing a novel escape- 
ment patented on May 28, 1878,'"' by William A. 
Wales. Early specimens are marked "Pat. Ai)])lied 
For," bill one with the serial number 996 ■'" bears 
no reference at all lo a patent, presumably because 
issuance oi' llie paieni or patents was imminent. 
Apparently the timer was in full production before 
the patent was i.ssued on May 28. Specimens with 
higher serial numbers are stam|jed with three patent 
dates, May 28, 1878,^* June 24, 1879, and September 
30, 1879, as seen in figure l.i. which also shows the 
arrangement of the train. In tliis escapement the 
escape wheel (fig. 14) carries in the rim any suitable 
number of steel pins all on the same radius from, 
and parallel to, the axis of wheel rotation. In all 
eases the wheel makes one revolution per second. 
The verge (figs. 14 and 15) is so proportioned that 
the distance between the points of repose on the 
entrance and exil ])allets will stop the wheel at 
intervals equal lo half the angular distance between 
the pins. 

In other words, with two pins in the escape wheel 
the escapement will beat quarters of a second, because 
starting from a point of repose the wheel will be ar- 
rested on the other point of repose after turning 
through 90°. With four pins in the escape wheel and 
a suitably proportioned verge the escape wheel ad- 
vances in steps of 45° and beats eighths of a second. 
The growing trend in this period to standardize the 

" Grossman, op. cil. (footnote 8), December 1887, p. 400. 
'* Grossman, op. cil. (footnote 8), January 1888, p. 33. 

3'^ Cros.sman, op. cil. (foutnotc 8), January 1888, pp. 400 401; 
.Abbot, op. cil. (footnote 29). 

3« U. S. patent 204400. 

3"U. S. National Museum cat. no. 248691. 

3» U. ,S. patent 204400. The text of this patent speaks of 
dividing the seeond into "halves, quarters, eighths, etc." and 
in the summation of claims of "an escape wheel, A, provided 
with one or more pairs of pins . . ." showing that measuring 
tenths of a second with a tivi--pin escape wheel was not con- 
ceived at this time. It is interesting to note that in referring 
to the drawings shown in figure 12 the text .states "In the 
present instance two pairs of pins are used to denote quarter 
seconds." Only one pair of pins is shown, which is correct. 
This seems, however, to reflect carelessness on the part of 
patent attorneys and examiners, as the error exists in the 
original manuscript patent application preserved in the Na- 
tional .\rchives, Washington, D. C. 



tiiniiiG; of sporting events in intervals of fiftiis of a sec- 
ond is reflected in still another model having five pins 
in the escape wheel and beating tenths of a second. 
By the nature of the verge in this escapement, it will be 
seen that the number of beats must be twice the num- 
ber of pins in the escape wheel, leaving no way to se- 
cure an odd number of beats per second, hence the 
'lo-second model. This must have been a less desir- 
able form because of the much smaller verge required, 
plus the problem of accelerating so much mass from a 
dead stop 600 times per minute. 

Figure 16 illustrates a dial for this ','n-sccond model 
which the author found in a lot of unused parts left 

Figure 17. — .\ Timer Di.^l ihat is probabK ciihcr 
experimental or very early. Note that llic fractions 
of a second (quarters) are shown on the outside dial 
instead of on a separate dial. This dial was convened 
at the factory for use as the base of a hairspring 
vibrating stand. A dial difTerent from this but having 
the same arrangement of circles is known. (In 
author's collection.) 

over when the factory closed. The watch had an 
18-size ;;^plate movement with grained nickel finish. 
The escapement is special, as we have seen, but the 
fork, roller, and balance action arc conxcntional. 
There are five jewels, four to support the balance stafT 
and an impulse jewel. The barrel arbor comes 
through the top plate with a .square, as in a kcywind 
watch, but is fitted with a winding handle, so that a 
key is unnecessary. This handle appears to be an 
afterthought, because on the earlier models (those with 


serial numbers below 1,000), the barrel arbor is short, 
barely long enough to attach the winding handle; 
later this arbor was made longer. Patent 204274 
issued to Benjamin Wormclle of Brighton, Ma.s.sachu- 
-setts, on May 28, 1878, the same date as Wales' es- 
capement patent, may have suggested this winding 
handle. On watches with higher serial numbers, 
there are two arrows on the handle to show the direc- 
tion to wind. 

The earliest of timers had a slide on the side of 
the case to stop the movement by means of a piece of 
thin spring steel applied roughly tangentially to the 
smooth rim of the three-arm, solid steel balance wheel. 
When this action is reversed to start the movement, 
the spring, in retracting from the wheel rim, starts the 
wheel swinging. Soon this slide on the was dis- 
pensed with by fitting a curved sheet-metal rack into a 
groove turned in the edge of the balance cock. En- 
gaging this rack was a pinion with a square hole 
through which the square stem could slide to set the 
hands back to zero as it had from the beginning, while 
turning the stem now would actuate the pinion and 
rack to start and stop the movement, as the slide in 
the case had originally done. 

X'arious minor changes, dictated by experience and 
the need for economy in manufacture, were made in 
these moxcments. ."Xfter about tlie first thousand 
the diameter of the balance was reduced from ap- 
proximately .700 to about .530 inch. This smaller 
wheel was. of course, much more suitable to vibrate at 
the faster speeds required on the models beatingeighths 
and tenths of a second. .'\t some time between the 
manufacture of watches bearing serial numbers 3135 
and 3622. the formerly separate winding pawl and 
.spring were combined into one piece that could be 
entirely made in a punch press. Another economy 
move was to stamp the name and patents in place of 
hand engra\ing. For a long time hand engraving was 
u.sed, although stamping had been used from the 
beginning on the earlier rotary watch. 

The case was very similar to that used on the rotary. 
The dial, of white enamel with snap rim fastened by a 
screw,"" carried three graduated circles, an outer 
circle graduated in seconds up to sixty surrounding 
two smaller subsidiary dials. The top one of these 
smaller dials recorded minutes clasped up to ten and 
the lower one recorded fractions of a second. The 

'« U. S. patent 216917, issued to William .\. Wales and as- 
signed to William B. Fowlc, was applied for on .Xovcmlx-r I , 
1878, after llie device was already in use on earlier specimens 
of these watches. 


Figure i8. — Tag Displaying Directions for Use of the Auburndale Timer. 
(In author's collection.) 

same dial was used on ni()\einenls indicatina; quarters 
and eighths of seconds, all being graduated in eighths. 
A dial without provision for indicating the fractions of 
a second on a separate small dial may be seen in 
figure 17. This last has been made into a stand for 
hair spring work and is shown with balance and spring 
just as it came from the .Xuburndale factory with 
balance spring and wheel for a timer still in place. 

The sweep second hand and the minute register 
hand are attached to heart-shaped cams friction 
driven from their respective staffs. They are reset by 
a bar pivoted beneath the dial and actuated by the 
stem through pressure on the crown. An original 
instruction tag as sent from the factory with these 
timers is seen in figure 18. 

Figure 19 shows the mechanism of the split-second 
model as represented in U. S. patent 220195 of 
September 30, 1879, issued to William A. Wales and 
assigned to William B. Fowle.^° A split-second mech- 
anism is used to time the finish of two horses in the 
same race or any other similar event. In usual 
watches of this nature the watch will run along 
indefinitely with the extra or split second hand 
stopped although this hand will not record more than 
a difference of one minute from the main sweep hand. 
This was not true of the Auburndale, as pointed 

*" The mechanism was covered by British patent 3893, 
issued .September 27, 1 879, to Philip .Syng Justice on behalf of 
William B. I'owle. 

out in the instructions. The reason for this is that 
motion is conveyed to this hand through a hair spring 
which would be damaged if allowed to overwind. To 
prevent this a stop is interposed which will h.ih the 
entire watch unless directions are followed. The 
serrated wheel /•■, of hardened steel, driving the second 
sweep hand, is cut on the edge with 120 serrations; 
stopping of this hand therefore is only to the nearest 
half second regardless of how minutely the escapement 
is dividing tiine. This is rather a serious defect as, 
if timing a horse race as an exainple, the time of the 
fastest horse is taken on this hand which registers a 
lesser degree of accuracy than the time recorded on 
the second and less important horse. A general view 
of one of these watches is seen in figure 20. 

Success and Failure- 
It would be pleasant to report that after the fiasco 
of the rotary model these timers were a financial 
success, but the facts indicate otherwise. They were 
well built and reliable, so that the trade was pleased 
to stock and promote them. The public responded 
well when in the market for a timer, as might be 
expected, since no other stop watch with fractional 
second dial or split-second hand was made in the 
country. Those imported from abroad were many 
times as expensixe. I'nfortunately the demand was 
seasonal. Soinetime.s. during the racing season, 



demand would reach 400 per month, while al other 
seasons of the year practicalh- none at all were sold. 
Some remained in stock during the remaining life of 
the company, as is shown by the following advertise- 
ment,'" which was accompanied by an illustration of 
the watch: 

The old reliable Auburndale Chronograph Timers, for 
sale by Edward H. Brown, No. i6 Maiden Lane, New York. 
The manufacture of these watches having been discontinued 
for reasons entirely apart from their value and reliability, 
the stock in existence is very limited, and is now in the hands 
of Mr. Edward H. Brown, No. i6 Maiden Lane, New York 
City, the well known and reliable dealer in Watches, 
Diamonds and Jewelry. The Auburndale timer has been 
in the hands of a number of competent judges, and has 
always been found to be accurate. It is of convenient size, 
and is contained in a German silver case, nickel plated. 
The timers are manufactured in two qualities, without split 
seconds for $15 and with the split second for S25. They all 
have minute, second and lightning hands. We recommend 
all desiring a cheap and reliable timer to apply at once lo 
Mr. Brown, No. 16 Maiden Lane, New York. 

A steadier market was sought with the introduction 
of a low priced ^^-plate, back-.sctting, 18-size watch to 
compete, it was hoped, with the full-plate watches of 
similar price made by the established companies. 
Nearly all these watches had seven jewels, some few 
had more. The majority were key wind and set with 

Figure 1 9. — Split Second Mechanism of the Auburn- 
dale timer, as shown in drawings from U. S. patent 
220195, issued .September 30, 1879. 

a folding winding key permanently attached to the 
barrel arbor, as in figure 21. These were named 
"Lincoln" for Mr. Fowle's son, Lincoln A. Fowle,*^ 
and had a solid steel balance with screws and the gen- 
eral appearance of a comjicn.saled balance. A stem- 
wound, levcr-.set edition of the same basic watch was 
named "Bentley" for Bentley D. Fowle, another son." 
This had a cut bimetallic balance and higher finish. 
Conventional gilt finish was used on both of these 
models, although one isolated specimen found in fac- 
tory remainders" has a bright nickel finish compa- 
rable with the rotary watch. These watches were de- 
signed by Chauncey Hartwell,*' after J. H. Gerry 
had removed to Lancaster, where the Lancaster 
Watch Co., organized in August 1877, was attempting 
to bring a line of watches onto the market although 
beset by acute financial woes similar to those building 
up at Auburndale. To return to our ^4-plate watches, 
it may be said that they were well made for the price, 
reliable, and successful from a manufacturing point of 
view but could not be sold at a figure high enough to 
return a profit on the manufacture. 

Up to this time, about November 1, 1879, the 
Auburndale Watch Co., had existed as a private com- 
pany; now it was incorporated with a book value of 
S500,000, and William B. Fowle, w-ho at this point had 
invested about $250,000 (mostly unrecoverable) in the 
enterprise, was elected president, and George H. 
Bourne was elected secretary and treasurer. 

After a quantity of these Lincoln and Bentley 
watches had been manufactured " and it had become 
clear that they could not be attractively priced to the 
trade, the company sought a product adapted to their 
factory equipment for which a constant market could 
be found. The product chosen was a line of metallic 
thermometers." Two patents, 240058 and 240059, 

*i The Jewelers Circular and Horological Review, July 1884. 

■"S.VVtt'/on director}; 1884-85; Crossman, op. cil. (footnote 8), 
December 1887. 

« Records of Wterans .Administration, pension application 
WE 666 675 of Mary E. Fowle (widow of William B. Fowle). 

" Serial 926, in author's collection. 

« Alroton directory, 1879. 

<" Each model of watch made at .\uburndalc was numbered 
in its own series, starting at number 1, contrary to the usual 
watch factory practice where blocks of serial numbers arc as- 
signed to different models. Other .Vuburndale products seem 
not to have borne serial numbers. 

*' Crossman, op. cil. (footnote 8), December 1887. 


Figure 20 {left). — Auburndale I imi.r uirii Si' 
Second Hand. Note the stop and start lever for 
the "spHt"' hand at the side of the case. (In auihor's 

Figure 21 {above). — Auburndale Three-Quarter 
Plate Watch, typical of both Lincoln and Bentley 
grades. (In auilior's collection.) 

were issued to William A. Wales, assignor to the 
Auhtirndale Watch C^o., of Weston. Massachusetts, 
on \\n\\ 12. 1881. Whedicr these ])atenls represent 
the first thermometers made at Aul)tnndale or reflect 
the result of experience gained in making conven- 
tional models is not clear. The earliest evidence dat- 
ing the appearance of the thermometer is the 1881 
Boston directory which appeared on July 1. This il- 
lustrates the same inodel of thermometer seen in 
figure 22. The patents cover means of eliminating 
springs of any sort from the mechanism, so that the 
hand or dial pointer is entirely under the influence of 
the fused bimetallic thermal strips. Manufacture of 
the timers was carried along with thermometer manu- 
facture at first, bin productitjn of ihc timer was 
finally dropped, as the slock on hand was constantly 
increasing, and for a while the factory was at last 
operated at a profit, on thermometers alone. These 
were furnished in cases from 20 inches in diameter 
down to the size of a ten cent piece, according to 
the advertising. 

Unfortunately Mr. Fowle had suffered so much loss 
through the watch venture and from other investments 
that he was forced to make an assignment of his 
personal estate. The watch company, without his 

support, was carrying too large a burden of debt to 
be .self-supporting. In the fall of 1883 a \-oluntary 
assignment was inade and the equipment was sold in 
February 1884.^'* The \ewton directory of 188.5 lists 
W. B. Fowle as a thennomcter manufacturer on 
Woodbine Street, "house near." His home, "Tangle- 
wood,"" was on Woodbine .Street and perhaps the 
thermometer busiitess was operating in one of the 
outbuildings. William A. Wales assigned to the 
.\uburndale Watch Co. ]5alent 276101, of December 
4, 1883, covering details of a unit counter for kee|)ing 
score in games, and for similar work. .Vinon^ tlie 
relics in the author"s collection is a box bearing the 
label ".'\uburndale C'ountcr, W. B. Fowle & Son, 
.Xuburndale, Mass." These comiters were packed 
two in a box, the box jiLst mentioned being suitable to 
contain counters the size of the thermometer in figure 
22. Figure 23 shows a larger comiter measuring 
4'.> inches in diameter. From this and the fact that 
Fowle as late as 1887, is carried in the .\eivton 
directory as a manufacturer of metallic ilu-rmonieters, 
it seems that some attem|3t was made after dissolution 
of the watch company to carry on manufacturing. 

«8 nid. 



Figure 22 (above). — Albur.ndale Thermometer, 
about 1% inches in diameter. (In author's collec- 

Figure 23 (right). — AubuRiNd.ale Counter. Pres- 
sure on the projecting stem indexes the inner 
dial, showing through the window, at the same 
time ringing a bell. This dial is numbered from 
zero through six. The outside hand is held in 
place by friction and is manually set as desired. 
There is no connection \sith ihe inner mechanism. 

or perhaps only the as.scmbly on a small scale cjf parts 
previously manufactured. The Directory of 1889 lists 
Fowle as an accountant on Ash Street, .Auburndalc. 
He had bought this property in 1887, presumably 
after disposing of "Tanglewood" which now would 
be too large for his needs. In the editions of 1891 and 
1893 he is listed as United States collector of internal 
revenue, with an office at the Post Office building. 
Boston. In 1895 he appears as an accountant at the 
same address and from then to his death in 1902 he is 
listed as an accountant at his home address in .\ubin-n- 

Jason R. Hopkins, inventor of ihc tirsi .\uburndale 
product, passed away in Washington late the same 
year, 1902, having spent all the intervening years as 
a watchmaker. 

The Lesson 

The life of a ])i()neer has always been arduous. The 
story we have just reviewed illustrates this. Hopkins 
was a successful workman with clever and novel 
ideas. Fowle had been very successful in an entirely 

471274—59 6 

unrelated field. Wales had been very successful in 
importing and selling watches but the watch factory 
which he had owned in part had failed, the fault more 
probably that of the times than of the man. The 
various superintendents and foremen were first-class 
men with ample background in making conventional 
watches. .•\t the time no one could have had ex- 
perience in manufacturing exactly the grade and 
type of watch being attempted, for this was the 
pioneer effort. 

The country was in the grip of a long, lingering 
depression following the Civil War. Money was 
tight. The Auburndale Rotary was conceived as a 
very low |)riccd watch which would at the same time 
include the desirable and unusual feature of close 
timekeeping. Could these ideals have been adhered 
to. there is little reason to question that it would have 
foimd a market, even in hard times. 

We have seen that every effort to improve the origi- 
nal watch added to its cost, and here lies the real 
reason why it failed to w'in acceptance. By the time 
it reached the market it was no longer priced below 
conventional watches and at least some specimens 
were not reliable in performance. To make matters 
even worse, the best features of Hopkins' rotary watch 
had been incorporated by Locke and Merrill into a 
competing rotary watch much better engineered for 
cheap mass production. 

At this point the only hope for the factory seemed 
to be the manufacture of some other watch or similar 
small mechanism. The .Auburndale timer, with the 
exception perhaps of the split-second model, was a 
triumph mechanically and it returned a profit, but 
not enough to meet the financial needs of its sponsors. 
Much the same ni.n Iw <.\\(\ n{ :\\\ the- I.iir-r Xiibiini- 
dale products. 


The rotary had been of doubtful valui' when Fovvle 
bouEiht it, and the new orstanization was not able to 
contribute the necessary manufacturinsi ensjineerin? 
to make it a successful product. By the time this 
necessity was recogjnized. del)ts had mounted to the 
point where later products, which might have been 
successful on their own. were not able to carry the 
burden. The whole affair can be \iewed as a very 
expensive educational adventure from which the 
students were not able to salvage enough to put 
their education to anv use. 

Surely they received a clear illustration of how 
dangerous it can be to engage in an enterprise 
withoiu sufficient background or a long and careful 
study of design, manufacturing processes, costs, and 
market and sales analysis. For although numerous 
fortimes have been made in watch manufacturing, 
many more have been lost, and often those who 
put every eflbrt at their command into such ventures 
came away with only sad experience as their reward. 
Thus ended the story of the Auburndale Watch 



Contributions from 
The Museum of History and Technology: 

Paper 5 

Development of the Phonograph at 
Alexander Graham Bell's Volta Laboratory 

Leslie J. Neivville 





By Leslie ]. Newville 

The fame of Thomas A . Edison rests most securely 
on his genius for tnaking practical application of the 
ideas of others. However, it was Alexander Gra- 
ham Bell, long a Smithsonian Regent and friend of 
its third Secretary S. P. Langley, who, with his 
Volta Laboratory associates made practical the 
phonograph, which has been called Edison's most 
original invention . 

The Author: Leslie J. Newville wrote this 
paper ivhile he ivas attached to the office of the 
curator of Science and Technology in the Smith- 
sonian Institution' s United States National Aiu- 

THE STORY OF Alexander Graham Bell's inxcntioii 
of the telephone has been told and retold. How 
he became involved in the difficult task of making 
practical phonograph records, and succeeded (in asso- 
ciation with Charles Sumner Taintcr and CUiichcster 
Bell), is not so well known. 

But material collected through the years by the 
U. S. National Mu.seum of the .Smithsonian Institu- 
tion now makes clear how Bell and two as.sociates took 
Edison's tinfoil machine and made it reproduce sound 
from wax instead of tinfoil. They began their work 
in Washington, D. C, in 1879, and continued until 
granted basic patents in 1886 for recording in wax. 

Preserved at the Smithsonian are some 20 pieces of 
experimental apparatus, including a number of com- 
plete machines. Their first experimental machine 
was sealed in a box and deposited in the Smithsonian 
archives in 1881. The others were delivered by Alex- 
ander Graham Bell to the National Museum in two 
lots in 1915 and 1922. Bell was an old man by this 
time, busy with his aeronautical experiments in Nova 

It was not until 1947, however, that the Mu.seum 

recei\ed the key to the exj^erimental '"Graphoijhones," 
as they were called to differentiate them from the 
Edison machine. In that year Mrs. Laura F. Tainter 
donated to the Museum 10 bound notebooks, along 
with Tainter's unpublished autobiography.' This 
material describes in detail the strange machines and 
even stranger experiments which led in 1886 to a 
greatK' improsed phoncjgraph. 

Thomas .\. Edison had in\ented the ])honograph 
in 1877. But the fame bestowed on Edison for this 
startling invention (sometimes called his most orig- 
inal) was not due to its efficiency. Recording with the 
tinfoil phon()gra])h is too difficult to be |)raciical. 
The tinfoil tears easily, and even when (he st\lus is 
[)ropcrly adjusted, the reproduction is distorted and 
squeaky, and g(jod for only a few playbacks. Never- 
theless young Edison, the "wizard"" as he was called, 
had hit upon a secret of w liiih men had dreamed for 

'Charles .Sumner Tainter (1854-1940), '■'I'lu- talkini; ma- 
chine and some little known fact.s in connection with its early 
development," unpublished manuscript in the collections ol 
the U. S. National .Mu.seiuu. 



Figure i.- Charles Sumni;r Tainter (1854- 1940J Iroiu a 
photograph taken in San Diego, California, 191 9. (S'milh- 
sortian photo 42729-.'! J 

centuries.- Immediately after this discovery, how- 
ever, he did not improve it. allegedly because of an 
agreement to spend the ne.xt five years developing the 
New York City electric light and power system. 

Meanwhile Bell, always a scientist and experimenter 
at heart, after his invention of the telephone in 1876 
was looking for new worlds to conquer. If we accept 
Tainter's version of the story, it was through Gardiner 
Green Hubbard that Bell took up the phonograph 

^ One of the most interesting prophecies was written in 16.S6 
by Cyrano de Bergerac, in his Comic hislorj oj the slates and 
empires of the Moon: 

" 'I began to study closely my books and their covers which 
impressed me for their richness. One was decorated with a 
single diamond, more brilliant by far than ours. The .second 
seemed but a single pearl cleft in twain. 

" 'When I opened the covers, I found inside something made 
of metal, not imlike our clocks, full of mysterious little springs 
and almost invisible mechanisms. 'Tis a book, "tis true, but a 
miraculous book, which lias no pages or letters. Indeed, 'tis 
a book which to enjoy the eyes are useless; only ears suffice. 
When a man desires to read, then, he surrounds this contriv- 
ance with many small tendons of every kind, then he places the 
needle on the chapter to be heard and, at the same time, there 
come, as from the mouth of a man or from an instrument of 
music, all those clear and separate sounds which make up the 
Lunarians' tongue.'" (.See .'\. Coeuroy and G. Clarence, 
Lf phonographe, Paris, 1929, p. 9, 10.) 

challenge. Bell had married Hubbard's daughter 
Mabel in 1879. Hubbard was then president of the 
Edison .Speaking Phonograph Co., and his organiza- 
tion, which had purchased the Edi.son patent, was 
having trouble with its finances because people did 
not like to buy a machine which .seldom worked 
well and proved difficult for ;ui unskilled person to 

In 1879 Hubbard got Bell interested in improving 
the machine, and it was agreed that a laboratory 
should be set up in Washington. Exjjcriments were 
also to be conducted on the transmission of sound by 
light, and this resulietl in the selenium-cell Photo- 
phone, patented in 1881. Both the Hubbards and 
the Bells decided to move to the Capital. While Bell 
took his bride to Europe for an extended honeymoon, 
his associate Charles Sumner Tainter, a young instru- 
ment maker, was sent on to Washington from Cam- 
bridge. .Massachusetts, to start the laboratory.' Bell's 

' Fainter retained a lifelonR admiration for .Mcxandcr 
Graham Bell. This is Tainter's description of their first meeting 
in Cambridge: ". . . one day I received a visit from a very 
distinguished looking gentleman with jet black hair and beard, 
who annoimced himself as Mr. .\. Graham B<-ll. His charm 
of manner and conversation attracted me enatlv. . . ." 
lainter, op. cil. (footnote 1), p. 2. 



cousin, Chichester Bell, who had been teaching 
college chemistry in London, agreed to come as the 
third associate. During his stay in Europe Bell 
received the 50,000-franc ($10,000) Volta prize, and 
it was with this money that the Washington project, 
the Volta Laboratory Association,'' was financed. 
Tainter's story, in his autobiography, of the estab- 
lishment of the laboratory, shows its comparati\e sim- 

Figure 2. — Photographing Sound in 1884. A rare 
photograph taken at Volta Laboratory, Washington, 
D. C, by J. Harris Rogers, a friend of Bell and 
Tainter (Smithsonian photo 44312-jE). 

A description of the procedure used is found on 
page 67, of Tainter's unpublished autobiography 
(see footnote i). There, Tainter quotes Chichester 
Bell as follows: 

"A jet of bichromate of potash solution, viljiated 
by the voice, was directed against a glass plate im- 
mediately in front of a slit, on which light was con- 
centrated by means of a lens. The jet was so ar- 
rani^ed that the light on its way to the slit had to pass 
through the nappe and as the thickness of this was 
constantly changing, the illumination of the slit was 
also varied. By means of a lens ... an image of 
this slit was thrown upon a rotating gelatine-bromide 
plate, on which accordingly a record of the voice 
vihialioiis was ol)iained."' 

I therefore wound up my business alfairs in (Cambridge, 
packed up all of my tools and machines, and . . . went to 
Washington, and after much search, rented a vacant house 
on L .Street, between 13th and 14th Streets, and fitted it up 
for our purpose."^ . . . The Smithsonian Institution sent us 
over a mail sack of scientific books from the library of the 
Institution, to consult, and primed with all we could 
learn ... we went to work.° . . . We were like the 
explorers in an entirely unknown land, where one has to 
select the path that seems to be most likely to get you to your 
destination, with no knowledge of what is ahead. 

In conducting our work we had first to design an experi- 
mental apparatus, then hun tabout, often in Philadelphia 
and New York, for the materials with which to construct it, 
which were usually hard to find, and finally build the models 
we needed, ourselves.' 

* A. G. Bell apparently spent little time in the \olta Labora- 
tory. The Dr. Bell referred to in Tainter's notebooks is 
Chichester A. Bell. The basic graphophone patent (U. S. 
patent 341214) was issued to C. A. Bell and Tainter. The 
Tainter material reveals A. G. Bell as the man who suggested the 
basic lines of research (and furnished the money), and then 
allowed his associates to get the credit for many of the inven- 
tions that resulted. 

■^ Tainter, op. cit. (footnote 1), p. 3, 

6 Ihid., p. 5. 

■ Ihid.. p. 30. 



=^ A.-t.-^-^.6<i 

Figure 3. — Page from Note- 
book of Charles Sumner 
Tainter. describing an experi- 
ment in sound recording. The 
Tainter noteboolis, preserved in 
the U.S. National Museum, 
describe experiments at the 
Volta Laboratory, in the i88o's. 
The Graphophone patents of 
1886, were the result of this 
research. (Smithsonian photo 


«--t— ^-^.6< A-y //WtH^ /^ /P^ 3 , 


/ ■ 7 J ^ 

^ 7^/1^" ,^L-4»-'U{l-u.'^<X^^ /kl^-^ ''^i-.^LJ~ xi«.^i-ir^.-^ ^/C-^-C^i, /.J 

/^ "/t^ ~~'/X-^y'A^/L.r\A —/C''^\tlf^i^-.^<^ /i/LS~/i..n.yL~ "y-^ rV^M. I 

The experimental machines built at the Volta 
Laboratory include both disc and cylinder types, and 
an interesting "tape" recorder. The records used 
with the machines and now in the collections of the 
U. S. National Mu.seiim, are believed to be the oldest 
reproducible records preserved anywhere in the 
world. While some are scratched and ci.icked, 
others are still in good condition. 

By 1881 the Volta associates had succeeded in 
improving an Edison tinfoil machine to some extent. 
\Vax was piu in the grooves of the heavy iron cylinder, 
and no tinfoil was used. Rather than apply for a 
patent at that time, however, they deposited the 
machine in a sealed box at the .Smithsonian, and 
specified that it was not to be opened without the 

con.sent of two of the three men. In 1937 Tainter 
(fig. 1) was the only one still living, so the box was 
opened with his permission. 

For the occasion, the heirs of Alexander Graham 
Bell gathered in Washington, but Tainter was too 
old and too ill to come from San Diego. 

The sound vibrations had been indented in the 
wax which had been applied to the Edison phono- 
graph. The following is the text of the recording: 
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
than are dreamed of in your philosophy. I am a 
graphophone and my mother was a phono-jraph."' 
Remarked Mrs. Gilbert Orosvenor.' RelPs daughter, 


* .\s quoted by The Washington Herald, October 28, 1937. 

(Mo Model.) 

4 Sbeeti — Sheet 4 



No. 341,214. Patented May 4, 1886. 

Figure 4. — P.^tent Drawings 
from U. S. paienl 341214, 
ijranted May 4. 1886, to 
CMiichester Bell and C. S. 

^n 7^rt fanty 


7 ^^m. 


when the box was opened in 1937, "That is just the 
sort of thing father would have said. He was always 
quoting from the classics." 

The method of reproduction used on the machine. 
however, is even more interesting than the quotation. 
Rather than a stylus and diaphragm, a jet of air 
under high pressure was used. 

•'This evening about 7 P. M.," Tainter noted on 
July 7. 1881, "The apparatus being ready the valve 
upon the top of the air cylinder was opened slighdy 
until a pressure of about 100 lbs. was indicated by 
the gage. The phonograph cylinder was then rotated, 
and the sounds produced by the escaping air could 
be heard, and the words understood a distance of at 



Figure 5.- Experimental Graphofhonk photo- 
graphed in 1884 at the \'olta Laboratory. This is 
similar to one preserved at the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion. {Smilhsonian photo 44312-Z).) 

least 8 feet from the phonograph." The point of the 
jet is glass, and could be directed at a single groove. 

The other experimental Graphophones indicate 
an amazing range of experimentation. While the 
method of cutting a record on wax was the one later 
exploited commercially, everything else seems to 
have been tried at least once. 

The following was noted on Wednesday, March 
20, 1881 : "A fountain pen is attached to a diaphragm 
so as to be vibrated in a plane parallel to the axis 
of a cylinder — The ink used in this pen to contain 
iron in a finely divided state, and the pen caused to 
trace a spiral line around the cylinder as it turned. 
The cylinder to be covered with a sheet of paper 
upon which the record is made. . . . This ink . . . can 
be rendered magnetic by means of a permanent 
magnet. The sounds were to be reproduced by 
simply substituting a magnet for the fountain pen . . ." 

The result of these ideas for magnetic reproduction 
resulted in patent 341287, granted on May 4. 1886; 
it deals solely with "the reproduction, through 
the action of magnetism, of sounds by means of 
records in solid substances." 

Figure 6. — Another Experimental Graphophone, 
photographed at the V'olta Laboratory in 1884. 
[Smithsonian photo 443 1 2-F.) 

The air jet used in reproducing has already l)ccn 
descriljed. Other jets, of molten metal, wax, and 
water, were also tried. On Saturday. May 19. 1883, 
Tainter wrote (see fig. 3): 

Made the following experiment today: 

The cylinder of the Edison phonograph was covered with 
the coating of paraffine-wax and then turned off true and 

A cutting style .\.. secured to the end of a lever B was then 
adjusted over the cylinder, as shown. Lever B was pivoted 
at the points C-D. and the only pressure exerted to force the 
style into the wax was due to die weight of the parts. 

Upon the top of A was fixed a small brass disk, and 
immediately over it a sensitive water jet adjusted, so that the 
stream of water at its sensitive part fell upon the center of the 
brass disk. 

The Phonograph c\linder E, was rotated while words and 
sounds were shouted to the support to which the water jet 
was attached, and a record that was quite visible to the 
unaided eye was the result. 

The tape recorder, an unusual instrument which re- 
corded inechanically on a ',s-inch strip of wax-cov- 
ered paper, is one of the machines descrilx-d and illus- 
trated in U. S. patent 341214, dated May 4, 1886 
(sec fig. 4). The strip was coated by dipping it in a 




rv -^f-. .f- 




Figure 7. — Original Plans for a Disc Graphophone Patented by Sumner Tainter in 

1888, U. S. Patent 385886. 

soluiiun of beeswax and paraffine (one part white 
beeswax, two parts paraffine, by weight), then scrap- 
ing one side clean and allowing the other side to 

The machine of sturdy wood and metal construc- 
tion, is hand powered by means of a knob fastened to 
the fly wheel. From the fly-wheel shaft power is 
transferred by a small friction wheel to a vertical shaft. 
At the bottom of this shaft a V-pulley transfers motion 
by belts to correspondinsj V-puUeys beneath the hori- 
zontal reels. 

The wax strip passes from one 8-lnch reel around the 
periphery of a pulley (with guide flanges) mounted 
above the V-puUeys on the main vertical shaft, where 
it comes in contact with the recording or reproducing 
stylus. It is then taken up on the other reel. 

The sharp recording stylus, actuated by a vibrating 
mica diaphragm, cuts the wax from the strip. In re- 
producing, a dull, loosely mounted stylus, attached to 

a rubber diaphragm, carried sounds through an ear 
tube to the listener. 

Both reccjrdiiiij and reiiroducing heads, mounted 
ahcrnately on the same two posts, could be adjusted 
vertically so that several records could be cut on the 
same 5i6-inch strip. 

While this machine was never developed commer- 
cially, it is an interesting ancestor of the modern tape 
recorder, which it resembles .somewhat in design. 
Mow practical it was or just why it was built we do not 
know. The tape is now brittle, the heavy paper reels 
warped, and the reproducing head missing. Other- 
wise, with some reconditionins;, it could he jnit into 
working condition. 

Most of the disc machines designed by the \'olta 
associates had the disc mounted vertically (see figs. 
5 and 6). The explanation is that in the early experi- 
ments, the turntable, with disc, was mounted on the 
shop lathe, along with the recording and reproducins; 





* s 


Figure 8. — Another Page of the Plans Shown in Figure 7. The experimental Graphophone 
built from these plans is in the U. S. National Museum (cat. no. 287665). 

heads. Later, when the complete models were Iniilt, 
most of them feattired vertical turntables. 

An interesting exception has a horizontal 7-inch 
turntable (see figs. 7 and 8). This machine, although 
made in 1886, is a duplicate of one made earlier but 
taken to Europe by Chichester Bell. Tainter was 
granted U. S. patent 385886 for it on July 10, 1888. 

The playing arm is rigid, e.xcept for a pivoted verti- 
cal motion of 90 degrees to allow removal of the 
record or a return to starting position. While record- 
ing or playing, the record not only rotated, but moved 
lateralK- under the stylus, which thus described a 
spiral, recording 150 grooves to the inch. 

The Bell and Tainter records, preserved at the 
Smithsonian, are both of the lateral cut and "hill-and- 
dalc" types. Edison for many years used the "hill- 
and-dale" method with both cylinder and rec- 
ords, and Emile Berliner is credited with the invention 
of the lateral cut Gramophone record in 1887. The 

Volta associates, however, had Ijeen experimenting 
with i)oth types, as early as 1881, as is shown by the 
following quotation from Tainter: ' 

The record on the electro-type in the .Smithsonian package 
is of the other form, where the vibrations arc impressed 
parallel to the surface of the recording material, as was done 
in the old .Scott Phonautograph of 1857, thus forming a 
groove of uniform depth, but of wavy character, in which the 
sides of the groove act upon the tracing point instead of the 
bottom, as is the case in the vertical type. This form we 
named the zig-zag form, and referred to it in that way in our 
notes. Its important advantage in guiding the reproducing 
needle 1 first called attention to in the note on p. g-N'ol 1- 
Home Xotes on March 29-1881, and endeavored to use it 
in my early work, but encountered so much difficulty in 
getting a form of reproducer that would work with the soft 
wax records without tearing the groove, we used the hill 
and vallev type of record more often than the other. 

» Tainter, op. al. (footnote 1), pp. 28, 29. 



In 1885, when the \'olta associates were sure that 
they had a number of practical inventions, they filed 
applications for patents. They also began to look 
around for investors. .-Xfter giving several demonstra- 
tions in Washington, they gained the necessary sup- 
port, and the American Graphophone Co. was or- 
ganized to manufacture and sell the machines. The 
\'olta Graphophone Co. was formed to control the 

The Howe sewing ukhIiIik' factory at Bridgeport, 
Connecticut, became the American Graphophone 
plant; Tainter went there to supervise the manufac- 
turing, and continued his in\entive work for many 
years. This Bridgeport plant is still in today by 
a successor firm, the Dictaphone Corporation. 

The work of the V'olta associates laid the foundation 
for the successful use of the dictating machine in 
business, for their wa.\ recording process was practical 
and their machines sturdy. But it was to take several 
more years and the renewed work of Edison and 
further developments In Berliner and many others, 
before the talking machine iiidusirs- realK- got under 

way and became a major facior in home entertain- 

'" The basic distinction Intwccn the first Edison patciit, and 
the Bell and Tainter patent of 1886. was the method of record- 
ing. Edison's method was to imient the sound waves on a piece 
of tin-foil (wax was included as a recording material in his 
English patent); the Bell and Tainter improvement called for 
cutting or "engraving" the sound waves into a wa.\ record, with 
a sharp recording stylus. 

The strength of Bell and Tainter patent is indicated by the 
following excerpt from a letter written by a Washington patent 
attorney, S. T. Cameron, who was a member of the law firm 
which carried on litigation for the .\merican Graphophone Co. 
The letter is dated December 8, 1914, and is addressed to 
George C. Maynard, Curator of Mechanical Technology, U. S. 
National Museum: "Subsequent to the issuance of the Bell and 
Tainter patent No. 341214, Edison announced that he would 
shortly produce his 'new phonograph' which, when it appeared, 
was in fact nothing but tlie Bell and Tainter record set forth in 
their patent 341214, being a record cut or engraved in wax or 
wax-like material, although Edison always insisted on calling 
this record an 'indented' record, doubtless because his original 
tin-foil record was an 'indented' record. Edison was com- 
pelled to acknowledge that his 'new phonograph' was an 
infringement of the Bell and Tainter patent 341214, and took 
out a license under the Bell and Tainter patent and made his 
records under that patent as the result of that license." 












Telephone call register 

C. S. Tainter 





Photophone trans- 

A. G. Bell, 


C. S. Tainter 





Selenium cells 

A. G. Bell. 
C. S. fainter 



Selenium cells 

C. S. Tainter 





Photophonic receiver 

A. G. Bell, 
C. S. Tainter 



Telephone transmitter 

C. S. Tainter 





Electric conductor 

C. S. Tainter 



Transmitter for elec- 
tric tele])hone lines 

C. A. Bell 



Jet microphone for 

C. A. Bell 



transmitting sounds 



by means of jets 





Telephone transmitter 

C. A. Bell 





Telephone transmitter 

C. .S. Tainter 



Reproducing sounds 
from phonograph 

A. G. Bell, 
C. A. Bell, 
C. S. Tainter 





Reproducing and 
recording sounds by 

A. G. Bell. 
C. A. Bell, 

393 '90 


radiant energy 

C. S. Tainter 





Recording and repro- 

C. A. Bell, 

ducing speech and 

C. S. Tainter 



other sounds 




Recording and repro- 
ducing sounds 

Apparatus for record- 
ing and reproducing 

Paper cylinder for 

.\pparatus for record- 
ing and reproducing 
speech and other 



Graphophonic tablet 

Machine for making 
paper tubes 

Mounting for dia- 
phragms for acousti- 
cal instruments 

Tablet for use in 

.Support for grai)ho- 
phonic tablets 

.Speed regulator 

Grai5hoi)hone tablet 

C. S. Tainter 

C. .S. Tainter 

C. S. Tainter 

C. .S. Tainter 

C. S. Tainter 
C. S. Tainter 
C. S. Tainter 
C. S. Tainter 

CI. S. Tainter 

C. S. Tainter 

C. S. Tainter 

C. S. Tainter 
C. S. Tainter 










Machine for the manu- 
facture of wax 
coaled tablets for 

C. S. Tainier 



Coin controlled 

C. S. Tainter 


Number iear Patent Imenliirs 

510656 1893 Reproducer for C. S. 'lainicr 

670442 1 90 1 Graphophone record C. S. Tainter 

duplicating machine 
730986 1903 Graphophone C. S. Tainter 


Books (10) containing the home notes, volumes i to 8 and 

II and 12, inclusive, March 1881-November 1883. 

(V'ols. 9, 10, and 13 were burned in a laboratory fire, 

September 1897.) 
Binder containing drawings and notes fur multiple record 

duplicator, October 8, 1897- 1908, and miscellaneous 

inquiries, fog. telegraph recorder, diet, home plans. 
Binder containing printed specifications of patents. S. 

Tainter, A. G. Bell, and C. .-\. Bell, June a(), 1880 to 

June 16, 1903. 
Medal, Exposition Internationale d'Elertririie. Paris. 1881, 

marked ""Tainter." 
Medal, Panama-Pacific Exposition, .San Francisco, 191 5, 

Medal of .-^ward. 
Seven purple lapel rosettes (?), one with ribbon and palms, in 

boxes marked ""1890." Notes in newspaper clipping. 


F. TAINTER, 1947 

Records of testimony of C. S. Tainier in various suits 
involving the phonograph: Volta Graphophone Co. vs. 
Columbia Phonograph Co., no. 14533, Supreme Court 
of the District of Columbia, dated January 13. 1894; 
.American Graphophone Co. vs. U. S. Phonograph Co., 
U. .S. Circuit Court, New Jersey, dated May 14, 1895; 
American Graphophone Co. vs. Edw. H. Amet, U. .S. 
Circuit Court, Northern District, Illinois, in equity, 
dated February 14, 1896; American Graphophone C^o. 
vs. U. S. Phonograph Co., et al., U. S. Circuit Court, 
New Jersey, in equity, no date; .American Graphophone 
Co. vs. Leeds et al., U. .S. Circuit Court, Two District, 
New York, N. Y.. no date; testimony marked "Ques- 
tions asked in Edison Co. suits"' (duplicate copies), 
no dale, no citation. 


Typed maiuiscript — '"Memoirs of Charles .Sumner Fainter'' 
(plus many photostats of notes and articles) 4U inches 
thick, pp. I -7 1 to about 1878, pp. i to 104 to factory 
at Bridgeport, some pages missing. 

Box — containing handwritten notes for "memoirs" includes 
copies of text of above (less photostats) ; copies of short 
biography; agreement creating American Graphophone 
Co.; letter of election to life membership in the 
American .•\ssociation for the .Advancement of Science. 

Binder — exhibits of Tainter drawings in American Grapho- 
phone Co. vs. Edison Phonograph Works., vol. i, U. S. 
Circuit Court, New Jerse\'. 

Folder— clippings and photostats relating to the machines 

deposited in Smithsonian. 
Certificate of appointment "Officer de F Instruction 

publique.'" France, October 31, 1889, for exhibition 

of (;ra[)hoplione. Exposition Universelle, 1889. 
Framed photo of Berliner & Tainter, 1919. 
Photo of Fainter, 1919. 
Separate package containing gold medal, certificate, 

Panatna-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, 1915; 

gold medal, certificate. Exposition Internationale 

Electricite. Paris, 1881. 


Contributions from 
The Museum of History and Technology: 

Paper 6 

On the Origin of Clockwork, 
Perpetual Motion Devices, and the Compass 

Derek J. de Solla Price 










By Derek J. cle Solla Price 

Ancestor of the mechanical clock hiis bei'ii thoi/ 
by some to be the sundial. Actually these devices 
represent two different approaches to the problem of 
timekeeping. True ancestor of the clock is to be found 
among the highly complex astronomical machines 
which man has been building since Hellenic times to 
illustrate the relative motions of the heavenly bodies. 

This study — its findings will be used in preparing 
the Museum' s netv hall on the history of timekeeping — 
traces this ancestry back through 2,000 years of history 
on three continents. 

The Author; Derek J. de Solla Price ivrote this 
paper while serving as consultant to the Museum of 
History and Technology of the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion s United States National Museum. 

In each successive age this coiistrucdon, 
having become lost, is, by the Sun's favour, 
again revealed to some one or other at his 
pleasure. (Surj/a Siddhanta. cd. Burgess, xiii, 

THK HISTORIES of the mechanical clock and the 
magnetic compass must be accounted amongst 
the most tortured of all our efforts to understand the 
origins of man's important inxentions. Ignorance 
has too often been replaced by conjecture, and con- 
jecture by misquotation and the false authority 
of "common knowledge" engendered by the repeti- 
tion of legendary histories from one generation of 
textbooks to the next. In what follows, I can only 
hope that the adding of a strong new trail and the 
eradication of several false and weaker ones will lead 
us nearer to a balanced and integrated understanding 
of medieval invention and the inierciihural trans- 
mission of ideas. 

For the mechanical chxk, perhaps the greatest 
hindrance has been its treatment within a self- 
contained "history of time measurement" in which 
sundials, water-clocks and similar de\'ices assume 
the natiual role of ancestors to the weight-driven 
escapement clock in the early 14th century.' This 
view must presume that a generally sophisticated 
know ledge of gearing antedates the in\eniion of the 
clock and extends back to the Classical period of 
Hero and \'itru\ius and such authors well-known 
for their mechanical ingenuities. 

Furthermore, even if one adinits the use of clocklike 
gearing before the existence of the clock, it is still 

' This traditional view is expressed by almost every history 
of horology. An ultimate source for many of those has been 
the following two classic treatments: J. Beckmann, .1 hislory 
of invenlions and discoveries, -Ith ed., London, 1846, vol. 1, pp. 
340 ff. A. P. Usher, A history oj mechanical inventions, 2nd ed.. 
Harvard University Press. 1954, pp. 191 ff., 304 ff. 



necessary to look for the independem iinentions 
ol the wcisht-dri\e and of the mechanical 
escapement. The first of these may seem com- 
paratively trivial: anyone familiar with the 
raisina; of heavy loads by means of ropes and 
pulley could surely recognize the possibility of 
using such an arrangement in reverse as a source 
of steady power. Nevertheless, the use of this 
device is not recorded before its as.sociation with 
hydraulic and perpetual motion machines in 
the manuscripts of Ridvvan, ca. 1200, and its use 
in a clock using such a perpetual motion wheel 
(mercury filled) as a clock escapement, in the 
astronomical codices of Alfonso the Wise, King 
of Castile, ca. Mil. 

The second invention, that of the mechanical 
escapement, has presented one of the most 
tantalizing of problems. Without doubt, the 
crown and foliot type of escapement appears to 
be the first complicated mechanical insention 
known to the European Middle Ages; it heralds 
our whole age of machine-making. Yet no 
trace has been found either of a steady evolution 
of such escapements or of their in\ention in 
Europe, though the astronomical clock powered 
iiy a water wheel and governed by an escape- 
ment-like device had been elaborated in China 
for several centuries before the first appearance 
of our clocks. W'e must now rehearse a revised 
story of the origin of the clock as it has been suggested 
by recent researches on the history of gearing and 
on Chinese and other astronomical machines. After 
this we shall for the first time present evidence to 
show that this story is curiously related to that of the 
Pcrpetuum Mobile, one of the great chimeras of science, 
that came from its medieval origin to play an im- 
portant part in more recent developments of energetics 
and the foundations of thermodynamics.- It is a 
curious mixture, all the more so because, tangled in- 
extricaljly in it, we shall find the most important and 
earliest references to the use of the magnetic compass 
in the ^Vest. It seems that in revising the histories 
of clockwork and the magnetic compass, these con- 

. .^.,««„ ^„,,^., ,^,, r,^.,5^ -^, 

- There is a considerable literature dealini; with the later 
evolution of perpetual motion devices. The most compre- 
hensive treatment is H. Dircks, Perpetuum mobile, London, 1861 ; 
2nd ser., London, 1870. So far as I know there has not pre- 
viously been much discussion of the history of such devices 
before the renaissance. 

Figure i . — Framework S i ri c rt re or rni; .\stro- 
NOMic.AL Clock of Giovanni de Dondi of Padua, 
A. D. 1364. 

siderations of perpetual motion devices may provide 
.some much needed e\idence. 

Power and Motion Gearing 

It ma\- be readil>- accepted liiat the use of n>oihed 
wheels to transmit power or turn it ihroiis;!) an angle 
was widespread in all cultures several centuries before 
the beginning of our era. Certainly, in classical 
times they were already familiar to Archimedes (born 
287 B.C.), ^ and in China actual examples of wheels 
and moulds for wheels dating from the 4ih century 

' For the early history of gearing in the VVi-st sec C. Mat- 
schoss, Geschichle des ~ahnradrs, Berlin, 1940. Also F. M. 
Feldhaus, Dif geschichlliche Enlwicktung d<s ^^ahntadts in Thnrir 
und Praxis, Berlin, 1911. 



Figure 2. — Astronomical Clock of dc Dondi, 
showing gearing on the dial for Mercury and 
escapement crown wheel. Each of the seven side 
walls of the structure shown in figure r was fitted 
with a dial. 

B.C. have been preserved.'' It might be remarked 
that these "machine" gear wheels are characterized 
by having a "round number" of teeth (examples with 
16, 24 and 40 teeth arc known) and a shank with a 
square hole which fits without turning on a squared 
shaft. Another remarkable feature in these early 
gears is the use of ratchet-shaped teeth, sometimes 
even twisted helically so that the gears resemble 
worms intermeshing on parallel axles. ^ The existence 
of windmills and watermills testifies to the general 
familiarity, from classical times and through the 
middle ages, with the use of gears to turn power 
through a right angle. 

Granted, then, this use of gears, one must guard 
against any conclusion that the fine-mechanical use of 

' A general account of these impoi tant archaeological objects 
will be published by J. Needham, Science and civilisation in China, 
Cambridge, 1959(?), vol. 4. The original publications (in 
Chinese) arc as follows: Wang Chcn-to, "Investigations and 
reproduction in model form of the south-pointing carriage and 
hodometer," .National Peiping Academy Historical Journal, 1937, 
vol. 3, p. 1. Liu Hsien-chou, "Chinese inventions in horo- 
logical engineering," Ch'ing-Hua University Engineering Journal, 
1956, vol. 4, p. 1. 

' For illustrations of intermeshing worms in Indian cotton 
mills, sec Matschoss, op. cil. (footnote 3), figs. 5, 6, 7, p. 7. 

gears to provide special ratios of angular movement 
was similarly general and widespread. It is custom- 
ary to adduce here the evidence of the hodometer 
(taximeter) described by \'itruvius (1st century B.C:.) 
and by Hero of Alexandria (1st century A.D.) and 
the ingenious automata also described by this latter 
author and his Islamic followers. ° One may also cite 
the use of the reduction gear chain in power machin- 
ery as used in the geared windlass of Archimedes and 

Uitfortimately, eveti the inost complex automata de- 
scribed by Hero and by such authors as Ridwan con- 
tain gearing in no more extensive context than as a 
means of transmitting action around a right angle. 
As for the windlass and hodo.meter. they do, it is true, 
contain whole series (jf gears u.sed in steps as a reduc- 
tion mechanism, usually for an extraordinarily high 
ratio, but here the technical details are so etherial 
that one must doubt whether such devices were actu- 
ally realized in practice. Thus \'itruvius writes of a 
wheel 4 feet in diameter and having 400 teeth being 
turned by a 1 -toothed pinion on a cart axle, but it is 
very doubtful whether such small teeth, necessarily 
separated by about j!g inch, would have the requisite 
ruggedness. Again, Hero mentions a wheel of 30 
teeth which, because of imperfections, might need 
only 20 turns of a single helix worm to turn it ! Such 
statements behove caution and one must consider 
whether we have been misled by the 16th- and 17th- 
century editions of these authors, containing recon- 
structions now often cited as authoritative but then 
serving as working diagrams for practical use in that 
age when the clock was already a familiar and com- 
plex mechanism. At all events, even if one admits 
without substantial evidence that such gear reduction 
devices were familiar from Hellenistic times onwards, 
they can hardly serve as more than very distant an- 
cestors of the earliest mechanical clocks. 

Mechanical Clocks 

Before proceeding to a discussion of the controversial 
evidence which may be used to bridge this gap be- 
tween the first use of gears and the fully-developed 
mechanical clock we must examine the other side of 
this gap. Recent research on the history of early me- 

" It is interesting to note that the C^hincsc hodometer was con- 
temporary with that of Hero and Vitruvius and very similar in 
design. There is no evidence whatsoever upon which to decide 
whether there may have been a specific transmis.'jion of this in- 
vention or even a "stimulus diffusion." 



chanical clocks has demonstrated certain peculiari- 
ties most relevant to our present argument. 


If one is to establish a terminus ante quern for the ap- 
pearance of the mechanical clock in Kurope, it would 
appear that 1364 is a most reasonable date. At that 
time we have the very full mechanical and historical 
material concerning the horological masterpiece built 
by Giovanni de Dondi of Padua," and probably 
started as early as 1348. It might well be possible to 
set a date a few decades earlier, but in general as one 
proceeds backwards from this point, the evidence be- 
comes increasingly fragmentary and uncertain. The 
greatest source of doubt arises from the confusion be- 
tween sundials, waterclocks, hand-struck time bells, 
and mechanical clocks, all of which are covered by 
the term horologium and its vernacular equivalents. 

Temporarily postponing the consideration of evi- 
dence prior to ca. 1350, we may take Giovanni de 
Dondi as a starting point and trace a virtualK un- 
broken lineage from his time to the present day. One 
may follow the spread of clocks through Europe, from 
large towns to small ones, from the richer cathedrals 
and abbeys to the less wealthy churches.** There is 
the transition from the tower clocks — showpieces of 
great institutions — to the simple chamber clock 
designed for domestic use and to the smaller portable 
clocks and still smaller and more portable pocket 

" .-X summary of the content of the manuscript sources, illus- 
trated by the original drawings, has been published by H. .Man 
Lloyd, Giovanni de Dondi's horological maslerpirce, 1364, without 
date or imprint (?Lausanne, 1955), 23 pp. It should be re- 
marked that de Dondi declines to describe the workings of his 
crown and foliot escapement (though it is well illustrated) say- 
ing that this is of the ''common" variety and if the reader does 
not understand such simple things he need not hope to compre- 
hend the complexities of this mighty clock. But this may be 
bravado to quite a large degree. 

'See, for example, the chronological tables of the 14th 
century and the later mentions of clocks in E. Zinner, Atis der 
Friihzeit der Rddcruhr, Munich, 1954, p. 29 ff. Unfortunately 
this very complete treatment tends to confuse the factual and 
legendary sources prior to the clock of de Dondi; it also accepts 
the very doubtful evidence of the "escapement"' drawn by 
Villard of Honnecourt (see p. 107). .\n excellent and fully 
illustrated account of monumental astronomical clocks through- 
out the world is given by Alfred Ungerer, Les horloges aslronomi- 
ques, Strasbourg, 1931, 514 pp. Available accounts of the 
development of the planetarium since the middle ages are very 
brief and especially weak on the early history: Helmut Werner, 
From the Aralus globe to Ike Z"" planetarium, .Stuttgart, 1957; 
C. .\. Crommelin, "Planetaria, a historical survey," Antiquarian 
Horology, 1 955, vol. 1 , pp. 70-75. 

Figure 3. — German \\".\ll Clock, Prob.^blv .\bout 
1450, showing the degeneration in complexity from 
that of de Dondi's clock. 

watches. In mechanical refinement a similar conti- 
nuity may be noted, so that one sees the cumulative 
effect of the introduction of the spring drive {ca. 1475), 
pendulum control {ca. 1650), and the anchor escape- 
ment {ca. 1680). The transition from de Dondi to 
the modern chronometer is indeed basically con- 
tinuous, and though much research needs to be done 
on special topics, it has an historical unity and seems 
to conform for the most part to the general pattern of 
steady mechanical improvement found elsewhere in 
the history of technology'. 



Most remarkable however is the earliest period of 
this seemingly steady evolution. Side by side uith 
the advances made in the earliest period extending for 
less than two centuries from the time of dc Dondi oiu- 
may sec a spectacular process of degeneration or 
devolution. Not only is de Dondi's the earliest clock of 
which we have a full and trustworthy account, it is also 
far more complicated than any other (see figs. 1, 2) 
until comparatively modern times ! Moreover, it was 
not an exceptional freak. There were others like il. 
and one cannot therefore reject as accidental this 
process of degeneration that occurs at the very begin- 
ning of the certain history of the inerhanical clock in 

On the basis of such evidence 1 ha\e suggested else- 
where ° that the clock is "nought but a fallen angel 
from the world of astronomy." The first great clocks 
of medieval Europe were designed as astronomical 
showpieces, full of complicated gearing and dials to 
show the motions of the Sun, Moon and planets, to 
exhibit eclipses, and to carry ihrou<>h the invoKed 
computations of the ecclesiastical calendar. As such 
they were comparable to the orreries of the 18th 
century and to modern planetariums: that they also 
showed the time and rang it on bells was almost inci- 
dental to their main function. One must not neglect, 
too, that it was in their glorification of the rationality 
of the cosmos that they had their greatest effect. 
Through milleniums of civilization, man's under- 
standing of celestial i)henomena had i)een the very 
pinnacle of his intellect, and then as now popular 
exhil)iiion of this sort was just as necessary, as striking, 
and as impressive. One docs not have to go far to 
see how the paraphernalia of these early great astro- 
nomical clocks had great influence on philosophers 
and theologians and on poets such as Dante. 

It is the thesis of this part of my argument that the 
ordinary time-telling clock is no affiliate of the other 
simple time-telling devices such as sundials, sand 
glasses and the elementary water clocks. Rather it 
should be considered as a degenerate branch from the 
main stem of mechanized astronomical devices (I 
shall call them protoclocks), a stem w'hich can boast a 
continuous history filling the gap between the a|5- 
pearance of simple gearing and the complications of 
de Dondi. VVc shall return to the di.scussion of this 
main stem after analyzing the very recently discovered 
parallel stem from medieval China, which reproduced 

the same evohiiion of mechanized astronomical de- 
vices and incidental time telling. Of the greatest sig- 
nificance, this stem reveals the crucial independent 
invention of a mechanical escapement, a feature not 
found in the European stem in spite of centuries of 
intensive historical research and effort. 


For this section I am privilesicd lo draw upon a 
thrilling research project carried out in 1956 at the 
L iiixersity of Cambridge by a team con.sisting of Dr. 
Joseph Needham, Dr. Wang Ling, and myself.'" In 
the of this w(jrk we translated and commented 
on a series of texts most of which had not hitherto been 
made available in a Western tongue and, though well 
known in China, had not been recognized as impior- 
tant for their horological content. The key text with 
which we started was the "Hsin I Hsiang Fa Yao," or 
"New Design for a (mechanized) Arniillary (sphere) 
and (celestial) (ilobe," written by Su Sung in A.D. 
1090. The very full historical and technical descrip- 
tion in this text enabled us to establish a glossary and 
basic understanding of the mechanism that later en- 
abled us to interpret a whole series of similar, though 
less extensive texts, giving a history of prior develop- 
ment cf such devices going back to the introduction of 
this type of escapement by I-Hsing and Liang Ling- 
tsan, in A.D. 725, and to what seems to be the orig- 
inal of all these Chinese astronomical machines, that 
buili by Chang Heng ca. A. D. 130. Filling the gaps 
between these landmarks are several other similar 
texts, giving ample evidence that the Chinese develop- 
ment is continuous and. at least from Chang Heng 
onwards, largely inde|3endent of any transmissions 
frojn the West. 

So far as we can see, the beginning of the chain in 
C'.hina (as indeed in the West) was the making of 
simple static models of the celestial sphere. An armil- 
lary sphere was used to represent the chief imaginary 
circles {e.g., equator, ecliptic, meridians, etc.), or a 
.solid celestial globe on which such circles could be 
drawn, together with the constellations of the fixed 

• Derek J. Price, "Clockwork before the clock," Horological 
Journal, 1955, vol. 97, p. 810, and 1956, vol. 98, p. 31. 

'"For the use of this material I am indebted to my co-authors. I 
must also acknowledge thanks to the Cambridge University 
Press, which in the near future will be publishing our mono- 
graph, "Heavenly Clockwork." Some of the findings of this 
paper are included in shorter form as background material for 
that monograph. A brief account of the discovery of this ma- 
terial has been published by J. Needham, Wang Ling, and 
Derek J. Price, "Chinese astronomical clockwork," .\aturt, 
1956, vol. 177, pp. 600-602. 



stars. The wliolc apparatus was then mounted s(j 
that it was free to revolve about its polar axis and 
another ring or a casinf< was added, external and fixed, 
to rejjrcsent the horizon that provided a datum for 
the rising; and setting of the Sun and the stars. 

In the next stage, reached very .soon after this, the 
rotation of ihe model was arranged to proceed auto- 
matically instead of by hand. This was done, we be- 
lieve, by using a slowly revolving wheel powered by 
dripjiing water and tinning the tnodel through a re- 
duction mechanism, probably inv'olving gears or, 
more reasonably, a single large gear turned by a trip 
lever. It did not matter much that the time-keeping 
properties were poor in the long run; the model 
moved "by itself" and the great wonder was that it 
agreed with the observed heavens "like the two halves 
of a tally." 

In the next, and essential, stage the turning ol the 
water wheel was regulated by an "escapement"' 
mechanism consisting of a weighbridge and trip 
levers so arranged that the wheel was held in check, 
scoop by scoop, while each scoop was tilled by the 
dripping water, then released by the weighbridge 
and allowed to rotate until checked again by the 
trip-lever arrangement. Its action was similar to 
that of the anchor escapement, though its period of 
repose was much longer than its period of motion 
and, of course, its timekeeping properties were con- 
trolled not only bv the mechanics of the device but 
also by the rate of flow of the dripping water. 

The Chinese escapement may justifiably be re- 
garded as a missing link, just halfway between the 
elementary clepsydra with its steady flow of water 
and the mechanical escapement in which time is 
coimted by chopping its flow into cycles of aciion, 
repeated indefinitely and counted by a cumulating 
device. W'ith its characteristic of saving up energy 
for a considerable period (about 15 minutes) before 
letting it go in one powerful action, the Chinese 
escapement was particularly suited to the (lri\ing 
of jackwork and other demonslraiion dc\ices recjuir- 
ing much energy but only intermittent activity. 

In its final form, as built by Su Sung after many 
trials and improvements, the Chinese '"astronomical 
clock-tower" must ha\e been a most impressive 
abject. It had the form of a tower about 30 feet 
high, surmounted by an observation platform covered 
with a light roof (see tig. 4). On the platform wa.< 
an armillary sphere designed for observing the 
heavens. It was turned by the clockwork so as to 
follow the diurnal rotation and thus avoid the distress- 

ing compulations caused by the change of coordinates 
necessary when fixed alt-azimuth instruments were 
used. Below the platform was an enclosed chamlxT 
containing the automatically rotated celestial giolx- 
which so wonderfully agreed with the heavens. 
Below this, on the front of the tower was a miniature 
pagoda with five tiers; on each tier was a doorway 
through which, at due moment, appeared jacks who 
rang bells, clanged gongs, beat drums, and held 
tablets to announce the arrival of each hour, each 
quarter (they used 100 of them to the day) and each 
watch of the night. Within the tower was concealed 
the mechanism; it consisted mainly of a central 
vertical shaft providing power for the sphere, glolje, 
and jackwheels, and a horizontal shaft geared to the 
vertical one and carrying the great water wheel 
which seemed to set it.self magically in motion at 
every quarter. In addition to all this were the levers 
of the escapement mechanism and a pair of norias 
by which, once each day, the water used was pumped 
from a sump at the bottom to a reservoir at the top, 
whence it descended to work the wheel by means of 
a constant level tank and .several channels. 

There were many offshoots and developments of 
this main stem of Chinese horology. We are told, 
for example, that often mercury and occasionally 
sand were used to replace the water, which frequently 
froze in winter in sjjiie of the application of lighted 
braziers to the interior of the machines. Then 
again, the astronomical models and the jackwork 
were themselves subject to gradual improvement: at 
the time of I-Hsing, for example, special attention 
was paid to the demarcation of ecliptic as well as 
the normal equatorial coordinates; this was clearly 
an influx from Hellenistic-Islamic astronomy, in 
which the relatively sophisticated planetary mathe- 
matics had forced this change not otherwise noted 
in C:hina. 

By the time of the Jesuits, this current of Chinese 
horology, long since utterly destroyed by the perils 
of wars, storms, and governmental reforms, had quite 
been forgotten. Matteo Ricci"s clocks, those gifts 
that aroused so much more interest than European 
theological teachings, were obviously something 
quite new to the 16th-century Chinese scholars; so 
much so that they were dubbed with a quite new 
name, "'self-.sounding bells," a direct translation 
of the word "clock" (glokke). In view of the fact 
that the medieval Chinese escapement may have 
been the basis of European horology, it is a curious 
twist of fale that the high regard of the Chinese for 



European clocks should have protnplrd them to 
open their doors, previously so carefully and for 
so long kept closed against the foreign barbarians. 

Mechanized Astronomical Models 

Now that we have seen the manner in which mech- 
anized astronomical models developed in China, we 
can detect a similar line running from Hellenistic 
time, through India and Islam to the medieval Europe 
that inherited their learning. There are many diffcr- 

Figure 4. — Astronomical Clock Tower of .Su 
Sgun in K'ai-feng, ca. A. D. logo, from an original 
drawing by John Christiansen. (Courtesy of Cam- 
bridge University Press.) 

enccs, notably because of the especial development of 
that peculiar characteristic of the West, mathematical 
astronomy, conditioned by the almost accidental con- 
flux of Babylonian arithmetical methods with those of 
Greek geometry. However, the lines are surpris- 
ingly similar, with the exception only of the crucial 
in\ention of the escapement, a feature which seems to 
be replaced by the influx of ideas connected with per- 
petual motion wheels. 




Most interesting and frequently cited is the bronze 
planetarium said to have been made by Archimedes 
and described in a tanlaHsingly fragmentary fashion 
by Cicero and by later authors. Because of its im- 
iwrtance as a protot\pe, we give the most relevant 
passages in full." 

Cicero's descriptions of Archimedes" planetarium 
are (italics supplied): 

Gaius Sulpieius Gallus ... at a liinc when ... he 
happened to be at the house of Marcus Marcellus, his 
colleague in the consulship [i66 B.C.], ordered the celestial 
globe to be brought out which the grandfather of Marcellus 
liad carried off from Syracuse, when that very rich and 
beautiful city was taken [212 B.C.]. . . . Though I had 
heard this globe (sphaerac) mentioned quite frequently 
on account of the fame of .Xrchimedes, when I saw it I did 
not particularly admire it; for that other celestial globe, also 
constructed by Archimedes, which the same Marcellus 
placed in the temple of Virtue, is more beautiful as well 
as more widely known among the people. But when 
Gallus began to give a very learned explanation of the 
device. I concluded that the famous .Sicilian had been 
endowed with greater genius than one would imagine 
possible for human being to possess. For Gallus 
told us that the other kind of celestial globe, which 
was solid and contained no hollow space, was a very 
early invention, the first one of that kind having been 
constructed by Thales of Miletus, and later inarked by 
Eudo.xus of Cnidus — a disciple of Plato, it was claimed — with 
constellations and stars which are fixed in the sky. He also 
said that many years later Aratus . . . had described it 
in verse. . . . But this newer kind of globe, he said, on 
which were delineated the motions of the sun and moon and 
of those five stars which are called wanderers, or, as we 
might say, rovers [;'. e., the five planets], contained more than 
could be shown on the solid globe, and the invention of 
Archimedes deserved special admiration because he had 
thought out a way to represent accurately by a single device 
for turning the globe, those various and divergent move- 
ments with their different rales of speed. .-\nd when Gallus 
moved [i.e., set in motion] the globe, it was actually true 
that the moon was always as many revolutions behind the 
sun on the bronze contrivance as would agree with the 
number of days it was behind in the sky. Thus the .same 
eclipse of the sun happened on the globe as would actually 
happen, and the moon came to the point where the shadow 
of the earth was at the very time when the sun (appeared?) 

" For these tran.slations from classical authors I am indebted 
to Professor Loren MacKinney and Miss Harriet Lattin, who 
had collected them for a history, now abandoned, of planc- 
tariums. I am grateful for the opportunity of giving thcin here 
the mention they deserve. 

out of the region . . . [several pages are missing in the 
manuscript; there is only one], 

De republica, I, xiv (21-22), Keycs' translation. 

When Archimedes put logclhcr in a globe the movemcnis 
of the moon, sun and five wandering [planets], he brought 
about the same eflfecl as that which the god of Plato did in 
the Timaeus when he made the world, so that one revolution 
produced dissimilar movements of delay and acceleration. 

Tusculanae dispulaliones, I, 63. 

Later descriptions from Ovid, Lactantius, C.laudian, 
Sextus Empiricus, and Pappus, respectively, are 
(italics su])plied) : 

There stands a globe suspended by a Syracusan's skill 
in an enclosed bronze [frame, or sphere — or perhaps, in 
enclosed air], a small image of the immense vault [of 
heaven]; and the earth is equally distant from the top and 
bottom; that is brought about by its [/. c, the outer bronze 
globe's] round form. The form of the temple [of Vesta] 
is similar. . . . 

Ovid, l-'asli (ist century, .\.D.), VI, 277-280, 
Frazer's translation. 

The Sicilian Archimedes, was able to make a reproduction 
and model of the world in concave brass (concavo aerc 
similitudinem mundi ac figuram); in it he so arranged 
the .fun and moon and resembling the celestial revolutions 
(caelcstibus similes conversionibus); and while it revolved 
it exhibited not only the accession and recession of the sun 
and the waxing and waning of the moon (incrementa 
deminutionesque lunae), but also the unequal courses of 
the stars, whether fixed or wandering. 
Lactantius, Inslitutiones divinae (4th century, A.D.). H, 5, 18. 

.Archimedes' sphere. When Jove looked down and saw 
the heavens figured in a sphere oi glass, he laughed and said 
to the other gods: "Has the power of mortal effort gone so 
far? Is my handiwork now mimicked in a fragile globe?" 
.•\n old man of Syracuse had imitated on earth the laws of the 
heavens, the order of nature, and the ordinances of the gods. 
Some hidden influence within the sphere directs the various 
courses of the stars and actuates the lifelike mass with 
definite motions. A false zodiac runs through a year of its 
ow-n and a toy moon waxes and wanes month by month. 
Now bold invention rejoices to make its own heaven revolve 
and sets the stars [planets?] in motion by human wit . . . 
Claudian, Carmina minora (ca. A.D. 400), LI (LWIII), 

Platnaure"s translation. 

The things that move by themselves are more wonderful 
than those which do not. .-\t any rate, when we behold an 
.Archimedean sphere in which the sun and the rest of the 
stars move, we arc immensely impressed b\- it, not by Zeus 
because we are amazed at the uood. or at the movemcnis 
of these [bodies], but by the devices and causes of the 

Sextus Empiricus, . 1(7; (•r.(iismaMcma//i-o.f (3rd century, A,D.). 

1\. 115. Epps' translation. 



Meclianics understand the making of spheres and know 
how to produce a model of the heavens (with the courses 
ol the stars moving in circles?) by mean of equal and circular 
motions of water, and Archiincdcs the Syracusan, according 
to some, knows the cause and reasons for all of these. 
Pappus (3rd century, A.D.), \i'orks (Hultsch edition), 

\'III. J. I'pps" translation. 

A similar arrangement seems to be indicated in 
another mechanized globe, also mentioned by Cicero 
and said to have been made by Posidonius: 

But if anyone brought to Scythia or Britain the globe 
(sphaerain) which our friend Posidonius [of Apameia, the 
Stoic philosopher] recently made, in which each revolution 
produced the same (movements) of the sun and moon and 
far wandering stars as is produced in the sky each day and 
night, who would doubt that it was by e.xertion of reason? . . . 
Yet doubters . . . think that Archimedes showed more 
knowledge in producing movements by revolutions of a 
globe than nature (does) in effecting them though the copy 
is so infinitely inferior to the original . . . 

Dc nutura deorum. II. .xxxiv-xxxv (88), 
^'onge"s translation. 

In spite ol" die lack of sullicient technical details in 
anv case, these mechanized globe models, with or 
without geared planetary indicators (which would 
make them highly complex machines), bear a .striking 
resemblance to the earliest Chinese device described 
by Chang Heng. One must not reject the possibility 
that transmission from Greece or Rome could ha\e 
reached the East by the beginning of the 2nd century, 
A.D., when he was working. It is an interesting 
question, but even if such contact actually occurred, 
very soon afterwards, as we shall see, the western and 
eastern lines of evolution parted comj)any and 
evolved so far as can be seen, quite independently 
until at least the 12th century. 

The next Hellenistic source of which we must take 
note is a fragmentary and almost unintelligible chapter 
in the works of Hero of Alexandria. .-Mone and un- 
connected with his other chapters this describes a 
model which seems to be static, in direct contrast to 
all other devices which move by pneumatic and hydro- 
static pressures; it may well be conjectured that in its 
original form this chapter described a mechanized 
rather than a static globe: 

I he World represented in the Centre of the L'niverse: 
The construction of a transparent globe containing air and 
liquid, and also of a smaller globe, in the centre, in imitation 
of the World. Two hemispheres of glass are made; one 
of them is covered with a plate of bronze, in the middle of 
which is a round hole. To fit this hole a light ball, of small 

size, is constructed, and thrown into the water contained 
in the other hemisphere: the covered hemisphere is next 
applied to this. and. a certain Cjuantity of the liquid having 
been removed fioni the water, the intermediate space will 
contain the ball; thus by the application of the second 
hemisphere what was proposed is accomplished. 

Pneumatics, XLVI, Woodcrofl's translation. 

It will be noted that these earliest literary references 
are concerned with pictorial, 3-dimensional models 
of the universe, moved perhaps by hand, perhaps by 
waterpower; there is no evidence that they contained 
complicated trains of gears, and in the absence of this 
we may incline to the view that in at least the earliest 
such models, gearing was not used. 

The next developments were concerned on the one 
hand with increasing the inathematical sophistication 
of the model, on the other hand with its mechanical 
complexity. In both cases we are most fortunate in 
having archaeological e\i(k'nce which far exceeds any 
literary sources. 

The mathematical process of mapping a sphere onto 
a plane surface by stereographic projection was intro- 
duced by Hipparchus and had much influence on 
astronomical techniques and instruments thereafter. 
In particular, by the time of Ptolemy {ca. A.D. 120) 
it had led to the successi\e inventions of the anaphoric 
clock and of the planispheric astrolabe.'- Both these 
devices consist of a pair of stereographic projections, 
one of the celestial sphere with its stars and ecliptic 
and tropics, the other of the lines of altitude and 
azimuth as set for an observer in a place at .some 
yjarticular latitude. 

In the astrolabe, an o]3enwork metal reie con- 
taining markings for the stars, etc.. may be rotated 
by hand over a disc on which the lines of altitude 
and azimuth arc inscribed. In the anaphoric clock 
a disc engraved with the stars is rotated automatically 
behind a fixed grille of wires marking lines of altitude 
and azimuth. Power for rotating the disc is provided 
by a float rising in a clepsydra jar and connected, 
by a rope or chain passing over a |)ulley to a counter- 
weight or by a rack and ])inion, to an axle which 
supported the rotating disc and communicated this 
motion to it.'' 

'- A, G. Drachmann, "The plane astrolabe and the anaphoric 
clock," Centauriis, 1954, vol. 3, pp. 183-189. 

" .\ fuller description of the anaphoric clock and coqnate 
waterclocks is given by A. G. Drachmann, "Klesibios, Philon 
and Heron," Acta Hislorica Scientiarum Naluralium et Medicinalium, 
Copenhagen, 1948, vol. 4. 



Figure 5. — Plate of Salzblrg 
Anaphoric Clock, a reconstruc- 
tion (see footnote 14) based on 
a pliotograpli of the remaining 
fragment. {Courtesy of Oxford 
University Press.) 

■^-~~. TV.;,, 

Parts of two such discs from anaphoric clocks 
have been found, one at Salzburg '' and one at 
Grand in the Vosges,'' both of them dating from 
the 2nd century A. D. Fortunately there is sufficient 
evidence to reconstruct the Salzburg disc and show- 
that it must have been originally about 170 cm. in 
diameter, a heavy .sheet of bronze to be turned by 
the small power provided by a float, and a large 
and impressive device when working (see fig. 5). 

" First publisiied by O. Benndorf, E. Weiss, and A. Rchm, 
Jahreshejle des oslerreichischen archdologischen Instilut in Wicn, 
1903, vol. 6, pp. 32-49. I have given further details of its 
constiuclion in A history oj technology, ed. Singer, Holmyaid, 
and flail, 1957, vol. 3, pp. 604-605. 

'^ L. Maxe-Werly, Mi-moires de la Sociite jVationale des Ari- 
tiquaires de France, 1887, vol. 48, pp. 170-178. 

471274—59 7 

Literary accounts of the anaphoric clock have been 
analyzed by Drachmann ; there is no evidence of the 
representation of planets moved cither by hand or 
by automatic gearing, only in the important case 
of the sun was such a feature included of necessity. 
.\ model "sun" on a pin could be plugged in to any 
one of 360 holes drilled in at equal intervals along 
the band of the ecliptic. This pin could be moved 
each day so that the anaphoric clock kept step with 
the seasonal variation of the limes of sunrise and 
sunset and the lengths of day and night. 

The anaphoric clock is not only the origin of the 
astrolabe and of all later planetary models, it is also 
the first clock dial, selling a standard for "clockwise" 
rotation, and leaving its mark in the rotating dial 
and stationary pointer found on the earliest time- 



keeping clacks before the change was made to a 
fixed dial and moving hand. 

We come finally to a piece of archaeological 
evidence that surpasses all else. Though badly 
preserved and little studied it might well be the 
most important classical object ever found; entailing 
a complete re-estimation of the technical prowess 
of the Hellenistic Greeks. In 1901 a sunken treasure 
ship was discovered lying ofT the island of Antikythera, 
between Greece and Crete." Many beautiful clas- 
sical works of statuary were recovered from it, and 
these arc now amongst the greatest treasures of the 
National Museum at Athens, Greece. Besides these 
obviously desirable art relics, there came to the 
surface some curious pieces of metal, accompanied 
by traces of what may have been a wooden casing. 
Two thousand years under the sea had reduced the 
metal to a mess of corroded fragments of plates, 

'" The first definitive account of the Antikythera machine 
was given by Perikles Rediadis in J. Svoronos, Dm Athener 
Nationalmuseum, Athens, 1908, Textband I, pp. 43-51. 
Since then, other photographs (mostly very poor) have ap- 
peared, and an attempt at a reconstruction has been made 
by Rear Admiral Jean Thcophanidis, Praklika Its Akadeniias 
Alhenon, Athens, 1934, vol. 9, pp. 140 149 (in French). I am 
deeply ijratefiil to the Director of the Athens National Museum, 
M. Karouzos, for providing me with an excellent new set of 
photos, from which figmes 6-8 are now taken. 

powdered verdigris, and still recognizable pieces of 
gear wheels. 

If it were not for the established dates for other treas- 
ure from this ship, especially the minor objects found, 
and for traces of inscriptions on this metal device written 
in letters agreeing epigraphically with the other ob- 
jects, one would have little doubt in supposing that 
such a complicated piece of machinery dated from 
the 18th century, at the earliest. As it is, estimates 
agree on ca. 65 B.C. ±10 years, and we can be sure 
that the machine is of Hellenistic origin, possibK' from 
Rhodes or Cos. 

The inscriptions, only partly legible, lead one to 
believe that we are dealing with an astronomical calcu- 
lating mechanism of some sort. This is born out by 
the mechanical construction evident on the fragments. 
The largest one (fig. 6) contains a multiplicity of 
gearing involving an annular gear working epicyclic 
gearing on a turntable, a crown wheel, and at least 
four separate trains of smaller gears, as well as a 4- 
spoked driving wheel. One of the smaller fragments 
(fig. 7, bottom) contains a series of movable rings 
which may have served to carry movable scales on 
one of the three dials. The third fragment (fig. 7, 
to])) h;is a pair of rings carefully engra\ed and gradu- 

Figure 6. — .'VNXiKVTHiiR.^, Largest Fr.\g- 

MENT. {Photo courtesy oj .Xational Alusium. Alliens.) 



ated in degrees of the zodiac (this is, incidentally, the 
oldest engraved scale known, and micrometric 
measurements on photographs have indicated a maxi- 
mum inaccuracy of about '2° in the 45° jiresent). 

Unfortunately, the very difhciili task of cleaning 
the fragments is slow, and no publication has yet given 
suflicient detail for an adequate explanation of this 
object. One can only say that although the probleins 

Figure 7. — Antikythera Machine, Two Smaller 
Fragments. (Pholo courtesy of National Museum, 

of restoration and mechanical analysis are peculiarly 
great, this must stand as the most important scientific 
artifact preserved from antiquity. 

Some technical details can be gleaned however. 
The shape of the gear teeth appears to be almost 
exactly equilateral triangles in all cases (fig. 8), and 
square shanks may be .seen at the centers of some 
of the wheels. Xo wheel is C|uite complete enough 
for a count of sear iceih, but a provisional reconstruc- 
tion by Theophanidis (hi?. 9) has shown that the ap- 
pearances are consistent wiih (lie theory that the 



Figure 8. — Antikythera Ma- 
chine, Detail from Figure 6, 
showing gearing. {Plwlo courtesy 
of National Museum, Athens.) 

purpose of the gears was to provide the correct angular 
ratios to move the sun and jjlanets at their appropriate 
relative speeds. 

Thus, if the evidence of the Antikythera macliine is 
to be taken at its face vakie, we have, already in classi- 
cal times, the use of astronomical devices as compli- 
cated as any clock. In any case, the material supplied 

by the works ascribed to Archimedes, Hero, and 
\"itruvius, and the more certain evidence of the ana- 
phoric clocks is sufficient to show that there was a 
strong classical tradition of such machines, a tradition 
that inspired, c\en if it did not directly influence, 
later developments in Islam and Europe on the one 
side, and. just possibK . Ohina on the other. 

Note added in proof: 

Since the above lines were written, I have been 
privileged to make a full examination of the frag- 
ments in the National Museum in Athens. As a 
result we can read much more inscription and make 
out many more details of the mechanism. The 
cleaning and disentangling of the fragments by the 
museum stall has proceeded to the stage where one 
can assert much more positively that the device 

was an astronomical computer for sidereal, solar, 
lunar, and possibly also planetary phenomena. (See 
my article in xhc Scientific American, June 1959, vol. 
200, No. 6, pp. 60-67). Relevant to the present study, 
it must also be noted at this point that the machine 
is now shown to be strongly related to the geared 
astrolabe of al-Birun and thereby the Hellenistic, 
Islamic, and European developments are drawn 
together even more tightly. 

Let us now turn our attention to those civilizations 
which were intermediari&s, geographically and cul- 
turally, between Greece and medieval Europe, and 
between both of these and China. From India there 
are only two references, very closely related and 

appearing in the best known astronomical texts in 
connection with descriptions of the armillary sphere 
and celestial globe. These te.Kts are both quite 
garbled, but so far as one may understand them, it 
seems that the Vfpc& of spheres and globes mentioned 



Figure 9. — Antk\thera Machine. Partul Recon- 
struction BY Theophanidis (scc footnote 16). 

arc more akin to those current in China than in the 
West. Tlie relevant portions of text are as follows 
(italics supplied): 

The circle of the horizon is midway of the sphere. .Vs 
covered with a casing and as left uncovered, it is the sphere 
surrounded by Lokaloka [the mountain range which formed 
the boundary of the universe in pin-anic geography]. By 
the application of water is made ascertainment of the 
revolution of time. One may construct a sphere-instrument 
combined with quicksilver: this is a mystery; if plainly 
described, it would be generally intelligible in the world. 
Therefore let the supreme sphere be constructed according 
to the instruction of the preceptor [guru]. In each suc- 
cessive age this construction, having become lost, is, by the 
Sun's favour, again revealed to some one or other, at his 
pleasure. So also, one should construct instruments in 
order to ascertain time. When quite alone, one should 
apply quicksilver to the wonder-causing instrument. By 
the gnomon, staff, arc, wheel, instruments for taking the 
shadow of various kinds. ... By water-instruments, the 

vessel, bs' the peacock, man, monkey, and by stringed 
sand-receptacles one may determine time accurately. 
Quicksilver-holes, water, and cords, and oil and water, 
mercury and sand are used in these: these applications, 
too, arc difficult. 

Surya Siddhanta, xiii, 15-22, 
E. Burgess' translation. New Haven, i860. 

.\ self-revolving instrument [or swayanvaha \anlra]: 
Make a wheel of light wood and in its circumference put 
hollow spokes all having bores of the same diameter, and 
let them be placed at equal distances from each other; and 
let them also be placed at an angle verging somewhat from 
the perpendicular: then half fill these hollow spokes with 
mercury; the wheel thus filled will, when placed on an a.\is 
supported by two posts, revolve of itself. 

Or scoop out a canal in the tire of the wheel and then 
plastering leaves of the Tala tree over this canal with wax, 
fill one half of this canal with water and the other half with 
mercury, till the water begins to come out, and then cork up 



llic orifice left open for filling the wheel. The wheel will 
then revolve of itself, drawn around by the water. 

Description of a syphon: Make up a tube of copper 
or other metal, and bend it in the form of an .\nkus"a or 
elephant hook, fill it with water and slop up both ends. 
And then putting one end into a reservoir of water let the 
other end remain suspended outside. Now uncork both 
ends. The water of the reservoir will be wholly sucked up 
and fall outside. 

Now attach to the rim of the before described self- 
revolving wheel a number of water-pots, and place the 
wheel and these pots like the water wheel so that the water 
from the lower end of the lube flowing into them on one 
side shall set the wheel in motion, impelled by the additional 
weight of the pots thus filled. The water discharge from the 
pots as they reach the bottom of the revolving wheel, should 
be drawn ofl' into the reservoir before alluded to by means 
of a water-course or pipe. 

The self-revolving machine [mentioned by Lalla, etc.] 
which has a tube with its lower end open is a vulgar machine 
on account of its being dependant, because that which mani- 
fests an ingenious and not a rustic contrivance is said to be a 

And moreover inany self-revolving machines are to be 
met with, but their motion is procured by a trick. They 
are not connected with the subject under discussion. I 
have been induced to mention the construction of these, 
merely because they have been incntioned by former 

Siddhanta Siromani, xi, 50-57, L. Wilkinson's translation, 
revised by Bapii deva S(h)astri, Calcutta, 1861. 

Before proceeding to an investigation of the content 
of these texts it is of considerable importance to 
establish dates for them, though there are many diffi- 
culties in establishing any chronology for Hindu 
astronomy. The Surya Siddhanta is known to date, in 
its original form, from the early Middle Ages, ca. 500. 
The section in question is however quite evidently an 
interpolation from a later recension, most probably 
that which established the complete text as it now 
stands; it has been variously dated as ca. 1000 to ca. 
11 50 A. D. The date of the Siddhanta Siromani is more 
certain for we know it was written in about 1150 by 
Bhaskara (born 1114). Thus both these passages 
must have been written within a century of the great 
clocktower made by Su Sung. The technical details 
will lead us to suppose there is more than a temporal 

\Vc have already noted that the armillary spheres 
and celestial globes described just before these extracts 
are more similar in design to Chinese than to Ptole- 
maic practice. The mention of mercury and of sand 
as alternatives to water for the clock's fluid is another 

feature very prevalent in ( Chinese biu absent in the 
Greek texts. Both texts seem conscious of the com- 
plexity of these devices and there is a hint (it is lost 
and revealed) that the story has been transmitted, 
only half understood, from another age or culture. 
It should be noted that the mentions of cords and 
strings rather than gears, and the use of spheres rather 
ihan planispheres would suggest we are dealing with 
devices similar to the earliest Greek models rather 
than the later devices, or with the Chinese practice. 

A quite new and important note is injected by the 
passage from the Bhaskara text. Obviously intrusive 
in this astronoinical text we ha\e the description of 
two '"perijetual motion wheels" together with a third, 
castigated by the author, which helps its perpetuity 
by letting water How from a reservoir by means of a 
syphon and drop into pots around the circumference 
of the wheel. These seem to be the basis also, in the 
extract from the Surya Siddhanta, of the "wonder- 
causing instrument"' to which mercury must be 

In the next sections wc sliall show that this idea of a 
perpetual motion device occurs again in conjunction 
with astronomical models in Islam and shortly after- 
wards in medieval Europe. At each occurrence, as 
here, there are echoes of other cultures. In addition 
to those already mentioned we find the otherwise 
mysterious "peacock, man and monkey,'" cited as 
parts of the jackwork of astronomical clocks of Islam, 
associated with the weight drive so essential to the 
later horology in Europe. 

We ha\-e already seen that in classical times there 
were already two different types of protoclocks; one. 
which may be termed "nonmathematical," designed 
only to give a visual aid in the conception of the 
cosmos, the other, which may be termed "mathe- 
matical'" in which stereographic projection or gearing 
was employed to make the device a quantitative 
rather than qualitative representation. These two 
lines occur again in the Islamic culture area. 

Nonmathematical protoclocks which are scarcely 
removed froin the classical forms a[)i)ear continuously 
through the Byzantine era and in Islam as soon as it 
recovered from the first shocks of its formation. 
Procopius (died ca. 535) describes a monumental 
water clock which was erected in Gaza ca. 500.'' It 
contained impressi\e jackwork, such as a Medusa 

'" H. Diels Uber die von Prokop bcschriebcnc Kiinstuhr von 
Gaza, .■ibhandlnngen, Akademif der Wissenschajtm, Berlin, Philos.- 
Hist. Klasse, 1917, No. 7. 



head which rolled its eyes every hour on the hour, 
exhibiting the time through lighted apertures and 
showing mythological interpretations of the cosmos. 
All these effects were produced by Heronic tech- 
niques, using hydraulic power and puppets moved 
by strings, rather than with gearing. 

Again in 807 a similarly marvelous exhibition 
clock made of bronze was sent by Harun-al-Rashid 
to the Emperor Charlemagne; it seems to have been 
of the same type, with automata and hydraulic 
works. For the succeeding few centuries, Islam 
was in its Golden Age of development of technical 
astronomy {ca. 950-1150) and attention may have 
been concentrated on the more mathematical proto- 
clocks. Towards the end of the 12th century, how- 
ever, there was a revival of die old tradition, mainly at 
the court of the Emperor Saladin (1146-1173) 
when a great automaton water clock, more mag- 
nificent than any hitherto, was erected in Damascus. 
It was rebuilt, after 1168, by Muhammad b. 'Ali 
b. Rustum, and repaired and improved by his son, 
Fakhr ad-din Ridwan b. Muhammad,'* who is 
most important as the author of a book which de- 
scribes in considerable technical detail the construc- 
tion of this and other protoclocks. Closely associated 
with his book one also finds texts dealing with per- 
petual-motion devices, which we shall consider later. 

During the century following this horological 
exuberance in Damascus, the center of gravity of 
Islamic astronomy shifted from the East to the 
Hispano-Moorish West. At the same time there 
comes more evidence that the line of mathematical 
protoclocks had not been left unattended. This is 
suggested by a description given by Trithemius of 
another royal gift from East to \Vest which seems to 
have been different from the automata and hydraulic 
devices of the tradition from Procopius to Ridwan:'* 

In the same year [1232] the Saladin of Egypt sent by his 
ambassadoi-s as a gift to the emperor Frederic a valuable 
machine of wonderful construction worth more than five 
thousand ducats. For it appeared to resemble internally 
a celestial globe in which figures of the sun, moon, and 
other planets formed with the greatest skill moved, being 
impelled by weights and wheels, so that performing their 
course in certain and fi.\ed intei-vals they pointed out the 
hour night and day with infallible certainty; also the 
twelve signs of the zodiac with certain appropriate char- 

" L. A. Mayer, Islamic aslrolabisls and their works, Geneva, 
1956, p. 62. 

" The translation which follows is quoted from J. Bcckmann, 
op. cit. (footnole 1), p. 349. 

Figure 10. — Calendrical Gearing Desic.ned by 
AL-BiRUNi, ca. A. D. 1000. The gear train count is 
40- 1 o + 7-59 + 1 9-59 -f- 24-48. The gear of 48 there- 
fore makes ig (annual) rotations while that of 19-59 
shows 118 double lunations of 29 + 30 = 59 days. 
The gear of 40 shows a (lunar) rotation in exactly 
28 days, and the center pinions 7+10 rotate in CNactly 
one week. After W'iedemann (see footnote 20). 

acters, moved with the firmament, contained within them- 
selves the course of the planets. 

The phrase "resembled internally"' is of especial 
interest in this passage; it may perhaps arise as a 
mistranslation of the technical term for stereographic 
projection of the sphere, and if so the device might 
have been an anaphoric clock or some other astrolabic 

This is made more probable by the existence of a 
specifically Islamic concentration on the astrolalx", 
and on its planetary companion instriuncnt, the 
equatorium, as devices for mechanizing computation 
by use of geometrical analogues. The ordinar>' 
planispheric astrolabe, of course, was known in 
Islam from its first days until almost the present 
time. From the time of al-Biruni {ca. 1000) — sig- 
nificantly, perhaps, he b well known for his travel 
account of India — there is remarkable innovation. 

Most cogent to our purixisc is a text, described for 
the first time bv Wiedemann,-'" in which al-Biruni 

'" E. Wiedemann, "Ein Instrument das die Bewcgung von 
Sonne und Mend darslellt, nach al Biruni," Dcr Islam, 1913, 
vol. 4, p. 5. 



Figure II. — Gearrd Astrolabe by Muhammad b. Abi Bakr of Isfahan, A. D. 1 221-1222. 
{Photo courtesy of Science Museum, London.) 

explains how a special train of gearing may be used 
to show the revolutions of the sun and moon at their 
relative rates and to demonstrate the changing phase 
of the moon, features of fundamental importance in the 
Islamic (lunar) calendrical system. This device nec- 
essarily uses gear wheels with a "non-round" number 
of teeth {e.g., 7, 19, 59) as dictated by the astronomical 
constants involved (see fig. 10). The teeth are shaped 
like equilateral triangles and square shanks are used, 
exactly as with the Antikythera machine. Horse- 
headed wedges are used for fixing; a tradition bor- 
rowed from the horse-shaped Faras used to fasten the 
traditional astrolabe. Of special interest for us is 
the lunar phase diagram, which is just the same in 

form and structure as the lunar volvellc that occurs 
later in horology and is still so comm.only found 
today, especially as a decoration for the dial of 
grandfather clocks. 

Biruni's calendrical machine is llic earliest compli- 
cated geared device on record and it is therefore all 
the more significant that it carries a feature found in 
later clocks. From the manuscript description alone 
one could not tell whether it was designed for auto- 
matic action or merely to be turned by hand. For- 
tunately this point is made clear by the most happy 
survival of an intact specimen of this very device, 
without doubt the oldest geared machine in existence 
in a complete state. 




Figure 12.— Gearing from Astrolabe Shown- in Figure ii. The gear train count is as 
follows: 48-13 + 8-64 + 64-64+10-60. The pinion of 8 has been incorrectly replaced by a 
more modern pinion of 10. The gear of 48 should make 13 (lunar) rotations while the double 
gear of 64 + 64 makes 6 revolutions of double months (of 29-30 days) and the gear of 60 makes 
a single turn in the hegiral >ear of 354 da\ s. (Photo cowU^y of Scieme Miiscum, London.) 

Tliis landmark in the history of science and tcch- 
nolos\- is now preserved at the Museum of tiie 
History of Science, Oxford, England.-' It is an asiro- 

2' I acknowkdgo with thanks to the Curator of that museum 
the permission to reproduce photographs of this instrununt. It 
is item 5 in R. T. Gunthcr, Astrolabes of the world, O.xford, 1932. 

labc, dated 1 22 1-22 and signed by the maker, Muham- 
mad b. Abl Bakr (died 1231-32) of Isfahan, Persia (see 
figs. 1 1 and 12 1. The very close resemlMance to the 
design of Biruni is quite apparent, though the gearing 
has been simplified very cle\crl\- so that only one 
wheel has an odd number of teeth (13), the rest being 



•JT1274— 59- 


■/■?/■ •'' » ' ■'•■• » \ <- I'm 

G^- v^niL. ... ^?;ai = 

to lis in the archaic Castilian of the Alfonsinc Libros 
del saber." The sectifjns of this booi\. dealing with the 
Laminas de las I'll I'latuias. describe not (jnly this 
inslriinienl but also the inijiroved modification intro- 
duced by Azarchicl (born ca. 1029, died ca. 1087). 

Xo Islamic examples of the equatorium have sur- 
\i\ed, but iVom this period onward, there appears to 

Figure 13. — .'\stroi..'\be Clock, Regulated by a 
Mercury Drum, from the Alfonsine Libros del saber 
(see footnote 22). 


much easier to mark out "jt'ometrically {e.g., 10, 
48, 60, and 64 teeth). The lunar phase volvelle can 
be seen through the circular o))ening at the Ijack of 
the astrolabe. It is quite certain that no automatic 
action is intended: when the central pivot is turned, 
by hand, probably l)y using the astrolabe rete as a 
"handle," the calendrical circles and the lunar phase 
are moved accordingly. Using one turn for a day 
would be too slow for useful re-setting of the instru- 
ment, in practice a turn corresponds more nearly to 
an interval of one week. 

In addition to this geared development of the 
astrolabe, the same period in Islam brought forth a 
new device, the equatorium, a mechanical model 
designed to simulate the geometrical constructions 
used for finding the positions of the planets in Ptole- 
maic astronomy. The method may have originated 
already in classical times, a simple device being 
described by Proclus Diadochus {ca. 450), but the 
first general, though crude, planetary equatorium 
seems to have been de.scribed by Abulcacim Abna- 
cahm {ca. 1025) in Granada; it has been handed down 

ha\e been a long and active tradition of them, and 
ultimately they were transmitted to the West, along 
with the rest of the Alfonsine corpus. More important 
for our argument is that they were the basis for the 
mechanized astronomical models of Richard of 
W'allingford (<y;. 1320) and probably others, and for 
the already mentioned great astronomical clock of 
de Dondi. In fact, the complicated gearwork and 
dials of de Dondi's clock constitute a series of equa- 
toria, mechanized in just the same way as the calen- 
drical device described by Binmi. 

It is evident that we are coming nearer now to the 
beginning of the true mechanical clock, and our last 
step, also from the Alfonsine corpus of western Islam, 
provides us with an important link between the ana- 

-- Abulcacim Abnacahm, Libros del saber, edition by Rico y 
Sinobas, Madrid, 1866, vol. 3, pp. 241-271. The design of 
the instrument has been very fully discussed by A. Wegener, 
"Die astronomischen Werke Alfons X," Bibliolheea .\tathe- 
mnlica, 1905, pp. 129-189. A more complete discussion of the 
historical evolution of the equatorium is given in Derek J. Price, 
The rqunlnrii- of Ihr platutis, Cambridge (Eng.), 1955, pp. 1 19-133. 



phoric clock, the wcitjlu clrixc, and a most curious 
pcrpclual-motion dfvice, the mercury wheel, used as 
an escapement or regulator. The Alfonsine book on 
clocks contains descriptions of five devices in all, four 
of them being due to Isaac b. Sid (two sundials, an 
automaton water-clock and the present mercury 
clock) and one to Samuel ha-Levi Adulafia (a candle 
clock) — they were probably comixjsed just before 
ca. 1276-77. 

The niercur\- clock of Isaac b. Sid consists of an 
aslroialjc dial, rotated as in the anaphoric clock, and 
fitted with 30 leaf-shaped gear teeth (see fie;. 13). 

perpetual-motion devices found in the medieval 
European tradition and also in the texts associated 
with Ridwan, which we shall next examine. 

It is of the greatest interest to our theme that the 
Islamic contributions to horoloi^y and perpetual 
motion seem to form a closely knit corpus. A most 
important series of horological texts, including those 
of Ridwan and al-Jazari, have licen edited by Wiede- 
mann and Hauser.-^ Other Islamic texts give versions 
of the water clocks and automata of Archimedes and 
of Hero and Philo of .Mexandria.-* In at least three 
cases -■' these texts are found also associated with texts 

Figure 14. — Islamic Perpetial Motion Wheel, 
after manuscript cited by Schmcllcr (see footnote 26). 

Figure 15. — Another Peri'etual Motion Wheel, 
after the text cited in figure 14. 

These are dri\-en by a ])ini()n off) leaves mounted on a 
horizontal axle (shown ver>- diagrammaticalh in the 
illustration) and at the other end of this axle is a 
wheel on which is mounted the special mercury 
drum which is powered i>\' a normal weight drive. 

It is the mercury drum which forms the most novel 
feature of this device; the fluid, constrained in 12 
chambers so as to just fill 6 of them, must slowly filter 
through stnall holes in the constraining walls. In 
practice, of course, the top mercury surfaces will not 
be level, but hiti;her on the right so as to balance 
dynamically the moment of the applied weight on its 
driven rope. This curious arrannemeni shows point 
of resemblance to the Indian "mercury-holes," to the 

describing perpetual-motion w-heels and other hy- 
draulic devices. Three manuscripts of this type have 
been [juljlished in German translation by Schmeller.'* 

-' E. Wiedemann, and F. Hauscr, "Ubcr die Uhrcn im 
Bcrcich d. islamischcn Kultur," jVova Ada; Aihandhngm der 
konigliclu Lropoldinisch-CaroUnischt Dnilschr Akademie der \aliir- 
(orscher zu Halle, 1915, vol. 100, no. 5. 

-* E. Wiedemann, and F. Haiiscr, Die Uhr des Archimedes und 
Ztvei andere Vorrichtungrn, Halle, 1918. 

-5 The manuscript!! in question are as follows: Gotha, Kat. v, 
Pertsch. 3, 18, no. 1348: Oxford. Cod. 954: Leiden, Kal. 3, 288, 
no. 1414, Cod. 499 Warn; and another similar, Kat. 3, 291, no. 
1415, Cod. 93Gol. 

" H. Schmeller. Beitrat;e zur Geschichtc der Tcchnik in der 
.\ntike und bci den .Vabern, Erlangen, 1 922 (Abhandlungen zur 
Geschichte der Nalurwissenschajltn und drr .\tedizin no, 6). 



Figure i6. — Islamic Pump Powered by a Weight Dri\t., after the text cited in fii;iire 14, 

The devices include a many chambered wheel (see fig. 
14) similar to the Alfonsine mercury "escapement," a 
wheel of slanting tubes constructed like the noria (see 
fig. 15), wheels of weights swinging on arms as 
described by Villard of Honnecourt, and a remark- 
able device which seems to be the earliest known 
example of a weight drive. This latter machine is a 
pump, in which a chain of buckets is used to raise 
water by passing over a pulley whicii is geared to a 
drum powered by a falling weight (see fig. 16); 
perhaps for balance, the whole arrangement is made 
in duplicate w-ith common a.xles for the corresponding 

The Islamic tradition of water clocks did not invoke 
the use of gears, though very occasionally a pair is 
used to turn power through an angle when this is 
dictated by the use of a water wheel in the automata. 
In the main, everything is worked by floats and 
strings or by hydraulic or pneumatic forces, as in 
Heros devices. The automata are very elaborate, 
with figures of men, monkeys, peacocks, etc., sym- 
bolizing the passage of hours. 


Echoes from nearly all the developments already 
noted from other parts of the world are found to 
occur in medieval Europe, often coming through 

channels of communication more precisely de- 
terminable than those hitherto mentioned. Before 
the influx of Islamic learning at the time of tran.s- 
mission of the Toledo Tables (12th century) and the 
Alfonsine Tables (which reached Paris ca. 1292), 
there are occasional references to the most primitive 
mechanized "visual aids" in astronomy. 

The most famous of these occurs in an historical 
account by Richer of Rheims about his teacher 
Gerbert (born 946, later Pope Sylvester II, 990-1003). 
.Several instruments made by Gerbert are described 
in detail; he includes a fine celestial globe made of 
wood covered with horsehide and having the stars 
and lines painted in color, and an armillary sphere 
having sighting tubes similar to those always found 
on Chinese instruments but never on the Ptolemaic 
variety. Lastly, he cites "the construction of a 
sphere, most suitable for recognizing the planets," but 
unfortunately it is not clear from the description 
whether or not the model planets were actually to 
be animated mechanically. The text runs: -" 

Within this oblique circle (the zodiac on the ecliptic 
of the globe) he hung the circles of the wandering stars (the 
planets) with marvellous ingenuity, whose orbits, heights 

-' Once more I am indebted to Professor Loren MacKinncy 
and Miss Harriet Lattin (sec footnote 11) for making their 
collections on Gerbert available to me. 



and even the distaiicf Ironi each other he demonstrated to 
his pupils most elTcciually. Just how he accomplished this 
it is unsuitable to enter into here because of its extent lest 
we should appear to be wandering from our main theme. 

Thus, although there is a hint of mechanical com- 
plexity, there is really no jtistification for such an 
assumption; the description might well imply only 
a zodiac band on which the orbits of the planets were 
painted. On the other hand it is not inconcei\ablc 
that Gerbcrt could have learned something of Islamic 
and other extra-European traditions during his 
period of study with the Bishop of Barcelona — a 
traveling scholarship that seems to have had many 
repercussions on the whole field of Evnopean 

Once the floodgates of Arabic learning were 
opened, a stream of mechanized astronomical 
models poured into Europe. Astrolabes and equaloria 
rapidly became very popular, mainly through the 
reason for which they had been first devised, the 
avoidance of tedious written computation. Many 
medieval astrolabes have survived, and at least 
three medieval equatoria are known. Chaucer is 
well known for his treatise on the astrolabe; a manu- 
script in Cambridge, containing a companion treatise 
on the equatorium, has been tentatively suggested 
by the present author as also being the work of 
Chaucer and the only piece written in his own hand. 

The geared astrolabe of al-Biruni is another type of 
protoclock to have been transmitted. A specimen in 
the Science Museum, London,"* though unfortunately 
now incomplete, has a very sophistocated arrange- 
ment of gears for moving pointers to indicate the 
correct relative positions and movements of the sun 
and moon (see figs. 17 and 18). Like the earlier 
Muslim example it contains wheels with odd numbers 
of gear teeth (14, 27, 39); however, the teeth arc no 
longer equilateral in shape, but approximate a more 
modern slightly rounded form. This example is 
French and appears to date from ca. 1300. Another 
Gothic astrolalje with a similar gear ring on the retc, 
said to date from ca. 1400 (it could well be much 
earlier) is now in the Billmeier collection (London).-' 

Turning from the mechanized astrolabe to the 
mechanized equatorium, we find the work of Richard 
of VValiingford (1292?-1336) of the greatest interest 

as providing an immediate precursor to that of do 
Dondi. He was the son of an ingenious blacksmith, 
making his way to Mcrton College, Oxford, then the 
most active and original school of astronomy in 
Europe, and winning later distinction as .Abbot of .St. 
Albans. A text by him, dated 1326-27, described in 
detail the construction of a great equatorium, more 
exact and much more elaborate than any that had 
gone before.'" Nevertheless it is evidently a normal 
manually operated device like all the others. In 
addition to this instrtiment, Richard is said to have 
constructed ca. 1320, a fine planetary clock for his 
.'\bbcy.'' Bale, who seems to have seen it, regarded 
it as without rival in Europe, and the greatest curiosity 
of his time. LInfortunately, the issue was confused by 
Leland, who identified it as the Albion {i.e., all-by 
one), the naine Richard gives to hLs manual equa- 
torium. This clock was indeed so complex that 
Edward III censured the Abbot for spending so much 
money on it, but Richard replied that after his death 
nobody would be able to make such a thing again. 
He is said to have left a text describing the construc- 
tion of this clock, but the absence of such a work has 
led iTiany modern writers to support Leland's identi- 
fication and suppose that the device was not a mechani- 
cal clock. 

A corrective for this view is to be had from a St. 
Albans manuscript (now at Gonville and Caius Col- 
lege, Cambridge) that described the methods for 
setting out toothed wheels for an astronomical horo- 
logium designed to show tlie motions of the planets. 
Although the manuscript copy is to be dated ca. 1340, 
it clearly indicates that a geared planetary device 
was known in St. Albans at an early date, and it is 
reasonable to suppose that this was in fact the ma- 
chine made by Richard of \VaIlingford. L'nfortu- 
natcly the text docs not appear to give any relevant 
information about tlie presence of an escapement or 
any other regulatory device, nor docs it mention 
the source of power.'" Now a geared version of the 

" Item 198 in Gunthcr, op. cil. (footnote 21). I am grateful to 
the authorities of that museum for permission to reprocluee 
photographs of this instrument. 

» Sotheby and Co., London, sale of March 14, 1957, lot 154. 
The outer rim of the rctc has 120 teeth. 

'" The Latin text of the treatise on the Albion, has been 
transcribed by Rev. H. Salter and published in R. T. Gunthcj, 
Early science in Oxford, Oxford, 1923, vol. 2. pp. 349-370. .An 
analysis of its design is given in Price, op. cit. (footnote 23), pp. 

" Such evidence as there is for the existence and form of the 
clocl- is collected by Gunthcr, np cil. (footnote 30), p. 49. 

3- I have discussed this new manuscript source in "Two 
medieval texts on astronomical clocks," .InliqiinrKin Horology, 
1956, vol. 1, no. 10, p. 156. The manuscript in question is 
ms. 230/116, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, folios 
ll>-14'' = pp. 31-36. 



Figure 17.— French Geared Astrolabe of Trefoil Gothic Design, en. A. D. 131",. Un- 
gearing on the pointer is, from the center: (32)/i4-45+27-39. the last meshing with a concave 
annular gear of 180 teeth around the rim of the rete of the astrolabe. A second pomter, 
geared to this so as to follow the Moon, seems to be lacking. {Photo courtesy 0/ Science Museum. 



Albion would apjpcar to correspond very closcl\- in- 
deed to the dial-work which forms the greater part of 
the de Dondi clock, and for this reason we suggest 
now thai ihv two clocks were very closely related in 
other ways too. This, circumstantial though it be, 
is evidence for thinking that the weight drive and 
some form of escapement were known to Richard of 
Wallingford, ca. 1320. It would narrow the gap be- 
tween the clock and the protoclocks to less than half a 
century, perhaps a single generation, in the interval 
ca. 1285-1320. In this connection it may be of 
interest that Richard of Wallingford knew only the 
Toledo tables corpus, that of the Alfonsine school did 
not arrive in England until after his death. 

There are, of course, tnany literary references to 
the waterclocks in medieval literature. In fact most 
of these are from quotations which have often been 
produced erroneously in the history of the mechanical 

It seems probable that some of these water clocks 
could have been sim|5le drip clepsydras, with jx-r- 
haps a striking arrangement added. A most fortu- 
nate discovery by Drover has now brought to light a 
manuscript illumination that shows that these water 
clocks, at least by ca. 1285, had become more complex 
and were rather similar in appearance to the Alfon- 
sine mercury drum." The illustration (fig. 19) is 
from a moralized Bible written in northern France, 
and accompanies the passage where King Hczekiah 
is given a sign by the Lord, the sun being moved back 
ten steps of the clock. The picture clearly shows the 
central water wheel and below it a dog's head spout 
gushing water into a bucket supported by chains, 
with a (weight ?) cord running behind. Above the 
wheel is a carillon of bells, and to one side a rosette 
which might be a fly or a model sun. The wheel 
appears to have 15 compartments, each with a cen- 

Figure i8. — Ge.^r Tr.\in of 
Poi.NTER in figure 17. {Pholo 
courtesy of Science Museum, London.) 

clock, thereby providing many misleading starts for 
that history, as noted previously in the discussion of 
the horologium. There arc however enough men- 
tions to make it certain that water clocks of some sort 
were in use, especially for ecclesiastic purposes, from 
the end of the 12th century onwards. Thus, Jocelin 
of Brakelond tells of a fire in the Abbey Church of 
Bury St. Edmunds in the year 1198.'' The relics 
would have been destroyed during the night, but just 
at the crucial moment the clock bell sounded for 
matins and the master of the vestry sounded the 
alarm. On this "the young men amongst us ran to 
get w-ater, some to the well and others to the clock"' — 
probably the sole occasion on which a clock served 
as a fire hydrant. 

tral hole (perhaps similar to that in the Alfonsine 
clock) and it is supported on a square axle by a 
bracket, the axle being wedged in the traditional 
fashion. The projections at the edge of the wheel 
might be gear teeth, but more likely they are used only 
for tripping the striking mechanism. If it were not for 
the running water spout it would be very close to the 
Alfonsine model; but with this evidence it seems impos- 
sible to arrive at a clear mechanical interpretation. 

" The Chronicle oj Jocelin oj Brakelond . . ., H. E. Butler (<-cl.), 
London, 1949, p. 106. 

'* C. B. Drover, "A medieval monastic water-clock," .An- 
tiquarian Horologt; 1954, vol. 1, no. 5, pp. 54-58, 63. Because 
this water clock uses wheels and strikes bells one must reject 
the evidence of literary reference, such as by Dante, from 
which the mention of wheels and bells have been taken as 
positive proof of the exi.stencc of mechanical clocks with 
mechanical escapements. The to-and-fro motion of the 
mechanical clock escapement is quite an impressive feature, 
but there seems to be no litrr.irv reference id it before the 
time of dc Dondi. 



From ihc adjacent region there is 
another account of a striking water 
clock, the evidence lieing inscriptions 
on slates, discovered in \illers Abbey 
near Brussels; ^' these may be closely 
dated as 1267 or 1268 and proxide the 
remains of a memorandum for the sacrist 
and his assistants in charge of the clock. 

Always set the clock, however long yoii 
may delay on [the letter "A"] afterwards 
you shall pour water from the little pot 
(pottulo) that is there, into the reservoir 
(cacabum) until it reaches the prescribed 
level, and you must do the same when you 
set [the clock] after compline so that you 
may sleep soundly. 

A quite different sort of evidence is to 
be had from the writings of Robertiis 
Anglicus in 1271 where one gets the 
impression that just at this time there 
was active interest in the attempt to 
make a weight-driven anaphoric clock 
and to regulate its motion ijy some 
unstated method so that it would keep 
time with the diurnal rotation of the 
heavens: ^^ 

Nor it is possible for any clock to follow the 
judgment of astronomy with complete accu- 
racy. Yet clockmakers (artifices horol- 
ogiorum) are trying to make a wheel (cir- 
culum) which will make one complete revoluiion for every 
one of the equinoctial circle, but tlicy cannot quite perfect 
their work. But if they could, it would be a really accurate 
clock (horologium verax valde) and worth more than an 
astrolabe or other astronomical instrument for reckoning 
the hours, if one knew how to do this according to the 
method aforesaid. The method of making such a clock 
would be this, that a man make a disc (circulum) of uniform 
weight in every part so far as could possibly be done. 
Then a lead weight should be hung from the a.\is of that 
wheel (a.xi ipsius rote) and this weight would move that 
wheel so that it would complete one revolution from sunrise 
to sunrise, minus as much time as about one degree rises 
according to an approximately correct estimate. For from 
sunrise to sunrise, the whole equinoctial rises, and about 
one degree more, through which degree the sun moves 
against the motion of the firmament in the course of a 

"Annales de la Societe Rotale (T Archeologie de BruxdUs, 1896, 
vol. 1/8, pp. 203-215, 404-451. The translation here is cited 
from Drover, op. cit., (footnote 34), p. 56. 

" L. Thorndikc, The sfiheie of Sacrobosco and its commentators, 
Chicago, 1949, pp. 180, 230. 

Figure ig. — Manuscript Illumination of a Mi.di- 
EVAL VVatkrclock, showing a partitioned wheel, a 
weight drive, and a carillion for striking. From 
Drover (see footnote 34). 

natural day. Moreover, this could be done more accurately 
if an astrolablc were constructed with a network on which 
the entire equinoctial circle was divided up. 

The text then cimlinues witli technical astronomical 
details of the slight difference between the rate of 
rotation of the sun and of the fixed stars (because of 
the annual rotation of the sun amongst the stars) 
but it gives no indication of any regulatory device. 
Again it should be noted, this source comes from 
France; Robertus, though of English origin, ap- 
parently being then a lecturer either at the I'niversity 
of Paris or at that of Montpcllier. The date of this 
pas.sage, 1271, has been taken as a terminus post quern 
for the invention of the mechanical clock. In the 
next section we shall describe the text of Peter Pere- 
grinus, very close to this in place and date, which 
describes just such a machine, conflating it with 
accounts of an armillary sphere, perpetual motion, 
and the magnetic compass — so bringing all these 
threads together for the fust time in Europe. 



\}.\V ob\i feir ova utt aa>;^< ttiatv 

Figure 20. — Arrangement for Turning a Figure 
OF AN Angel. It has been alleged that this drawing 
by Villard represents an escapement. After Lassus 
(see footnote 37). 

We have reserved to the last one section of evidence 
which may or may not be misleading, the famous 
notebook of Villard (Wilars) of Honnecourt, near 
Cambrai. The album, attributed to the period 1240- 
1251, contains many drawings with short annotations, 
three of which are of special interest to our investi- 
gations.'" These comprise a steeplclike structure 
labeled "cest li masons don orologe" (this is the 
house of a clock), a device including a rope, wheel 
and axle (fig. 20), marked "par chu fait om un 
angle tenir son doit ades vers le sclel" (by this means 
an angel is made to keep his finger directed towards 
the sun), and a perpetual mction wheel which we 
shall reserve for later discussion. 

The clock tower, according to Drover, shows no 
place for a dial but suggests the use of bells because 
of its open structure, suitable fcr letting out the 
sound. Moreover, he suggests that the delicacy of 
the line indicates that it was not really a full-size 
steeple but rather a small towerlike structure standing 

2' The album was published with facsimiles by J. B. A. 
Lassus, 1858. .\n English edition witli facsimiles of 33 of the 
41 folios was published by Rev. Robert Willis, Oxford, 1859. 
An extensive summary of this section is civen, with illustrations, 
by J. Drummond Robertson, The evolution 0) ilockwork, London, 
1931, pp. 11-15. 

only a few feet high within the church. There is, 
alas, nothing to tell us about the clock it was intended 
to house; most probably it was a water clock similar 
to that of the illustrated Bible of ca. 1285. 

The drawing of the rope, wheel and axles, for 
turning an angel to point towards the sun can have 
a simple explanation or a more complicated one. 
If taken at its face value the wheel on its horizontal 
axis acts as a windlass connected by the counterpoised 
rope to the vertical shaft which it turns, thereby 
moving (by hand) the figure of an angel (not shown) 
fi.xed to the top of this latter shaft. Such an explana- 
tion was in fact suggested by M. Quichcrat,** who 
first called attention to the Villard album and 
pointed out that a leaden angel existed in Chartres 
before the fire there in 1836. It is a view also sup- 
ported from another drawing in the album which 
describes an eagle whose head is made to turn towards 
the deacon when he reads the Gospel. Slight pressure 
on the tail of the bird causes a similar rope mechanism 
to operate. 

A quite different interpretation has been suggested 
by Fremont;'" he believes that the wheel may have 
acted as a fly-wheel and the ropes and counterjwises, 

'*' M Jules Quichcrat, Revue Archiologique, 1849, vol. 6. 
■^" Nf. C. Fremont, Origine de I'hoiloge a poids, Paris, 1915. 

Figure 2 1 . — Villard's Perpetual Motion Wheel, 
from Lassus (sec footnote 37). 



luinins; fust one way llicii the other acted as a sort 
of mechanical escapement. Such an arrangement is 
however mechanically impossible without some com- 
plicated free-wheeling device between the dri\e and 
the escapement, and its only efTect would be to 
oscillate the angel rapidly rather than turn it steadily. 
I believe that Fremont, over-anxious to pro\ide a 
protoescapement, has done too much violence to the 
facts and turned away without good reason from the 
more simple and reasonable explanation. It is 
nevertheless still possible to adopt this simple inter- 
pretation and yet to have the system as part of a 
clock. If the left-hand coimterpoise, conveniently 
raised higher than that on the right, is considered as 
a float lilting into a clepsydra jar, instead of as a 
simple weight, one would have a very suitable 
automatic system for turning the angel. On this 
explanation, the purpose of the wheel would be 
merely to provide the manual adjustment necessary 
to set the angel from time to time, compensating 
for irremediable inaccuracies of the clepsydra. 

Having discussed the Villard drawings which are 
already cited in horological literature, we must draw- 
attention to the fact that this medieval architect also 
gives an illustration of a perpetual moiion wheel. 
In this case (fig. 21) it is of the type having weights 
at the end of swinging arms, a type that occurs very 
frequently at later dates in Europe and is given 
in the Islamic texts. We cannot, in this case, sug- 
gest that drawings of clocks and of perpetual motion 
devices occur together by more than a coincidence, 
for Villard seems to have been interested in most 
sorts of mechanical device. But even this type of 
coincidence becomes somewhat striking when re- 
peated often enough. It seems that each early 
mention of "self-moving wheels" occurs in connec- 
tion with some sort of clock or mechanized astro- 
nomical device. 

Having now completed a survey of the traditions 
of astronomical models, we have seen that many 
types of device embodying features later found in 
mechanical clocks evolved through various cultures 
and flowed into Europe, coming together in a burst 
of multifarious activity during the second half of the 
13th century, notably in the region of France. We 
must now attempt to fill the residual gap, and in so 
doing examine the importance of perpetual motion 
devices, mechanical and magnetic, in the crucial 
transition from protoclock to mechanical-escapement 

Perpetual Motion and the Clock before 
de Dondi 

We have already noted, more or less briefly, 
several instances of the use of wheels "moving by 
themselves" or the use of a fluid for purposes other 
than as a motive power. Chronologically arranged, 
these are the Indian devices of ca. 1150 or a little 
earlier, as tho,se of Ridwan ca. 1200, that of the 
Alfonsine mercury clock, ca. Mil, and the French 
Bible illumination of ca. 1285. This strongly sug- 
gests a steady transmission from East to West, and on 
the basis of it, we now tentatively an addi- 
tional step, a transmission from China to India and 
perhaps further West, ca. 1100, and possibly rein- 
forced by further transmissions at later dates. 

One need only assume the existence of vague 
traveler's tales about the existence of the 1 1 th- 
century Chinese clocks with theii astronomical 
models and jackwork and with their great wheel, 
apparently moving by itself but using water having 
no external inlet or outlet. .Such a stimulus, acting 
as it did on a later occasion when Galileo received 
word of the invention of the telescope in the Low 
Countries, might easily lead to the re-invention of 
just such perpetual-motion wheels as we have al- 
ready noted. In many ways, once the idea has been 
suggested it is natural to associate such a perpetual 
motion with the incessant diurnal rotation of the 
heavens. Without some such stimulus hov\-ever it is 
difficult to explain why this association did not occur 
earlier, and why, once it comes there seems to be such 
a chronological procession from culture to culture. 

We now turn to what is undoubtedly the most 
curious part of this story, in which automatically 
moving astronomical models and perpetual motion 
wheels are linked with the earliest texts on magnet- 
ism and the magnetic compass, another subject with 
a singularly troubled historical origin. The key text 
in this is the famous Epistle on the magnet, written by 
Peter Peregrinus, a Picard, in an army camp at the 
Siege of Lucera and dated August 8, 1269.*° In spite 
of the precise dating it is certain that the work was 
done long before, for it is quoted unmistakably by 
Roger Bacon in at least three places, one of which 
must have been written before ca. 1250.'" 

*" For this, I have used and quoted from the very beautiful 
edition in KnRlish, prepared by Silvanus P. Thompson, Lon- 
don, Chiswick Press, 1902. 

«' See E. G. R. Taylor, "The SouUi-pointing needle," 
Imago Mundi, Leiden, 1951, vol. 8, pp. 1-7 (especially pp. 1, 2). 



The Epistle contains two parts; in the 
first there is a general account of mag- 
netism and the properties of the load- 
stone, closing with a discussion "of the 
in(|uii y whence the magnet receives the 
natural \irtuc which it has." Peter 
attributed this virtue to a sympathy 
with the heavens, proposing to prove 
his point by the construction of a 
"terrella," a uniform sphere of load- 
stone which is to be carefully balanced 
and mounted in the manner of an 
armillary sphere, with its axis directed 
along the polar axis of the diurnal 
rotation. He then continues: 

Now if the stone then move according to 
the motion of the heavens, rejoice that you 
have arrived at a secret marvel. But if not, 
let il be ascribed rather to your own want 
of skill than to a defect of Nature. But in 
this position, or mode of placing, I deem the 
virtues of this stone to be properly con- 
served, and I believe that in other positions 
or parts of the sky its virtue is dulled, rather 
than preserved. By means of this instrument 
at all e\ents \ou will be relieved from every 
kind of clock (horologium), for by it you will 
be able to know the .\scendant at whatever hour you will, 
and all other dispositions of the heavens which Astrologers 
seek after. 

It should be noted that the device is to be mounted 
like an astronomical instrument and used like one, 
rather than as a time teller, or as a simple demon- 
stration of magnetism. In the second part of the 
Ejnstle Peter turns to practical instruments, describing 
for the fust time, the construction of a magnetic com- 
pass consisting of a loadstone or iron needle pivoted 
with a casing inarkcd with a scale of degrees. The 
third chapter of this section, concluding the Epistle, 
then continues with the description of a perpetual 
motion wheel, "elaboured with marvellous ingenuity, 
in the persuit of which invention I have seen many 
people wandering about, and wearied with manifold 
toil. For they did not observe that they could arrive 
at the mastery of this by means of the virtue, or 
power of this stone." 

This tells us incidentally, that the perpetual motion 
device was a subject of considerable interest at this 

Figure 22. — Magnetic Perpetual Motion Wheel 
illustrated by Peter Peregrinus; from the edition of 
S. P. Thompson (see footnote 40}. 

time.''- Oddly enough, Peter does not now develop 
his idea of the terrella, but proceeds to something 
quite new, a device (see fig. 22) in which a bar-magnet 
loadstone is to be set towards the end of a pivoted 
radial arm with a circle fitted on the inside with iron 
"gear teeth," the teeth being there not to mesh with 
others but to draw the magnet from one to the next, 
a little bead providing a counterweight to help the 
inertia of rotation carry the magnet from one point 
of attraction to the next. It is by no means the sort 
of device that one would naturally evolve as a means 
of making magnetism work perpetually, and I 
suggest that the toothed wheel is another instance 
of some vague idea of protoclocks, perhaps that of 
Su Sung, being transmitted from the East. 

The work of Peter Peregrinus is cited by Roger 
Bacon in his De seaetis as well as in the Opus majus 

*' I have wondered whether the medieval interest in perpetual 
motion could be connected with the use of the "Wheel of 
Fortune" in churches as a substitute for bell-ringing on Good 
Friday. Unfortunately I can find no evidence for or against 
the conicctiirc. 



and Ofms minus. In iho first and earliest of these 
occurs a description, taiccn from Ptolemy, of the 
construction of llie (observing) annillary S]3heri'. He 
says that this cannot be made to move naturally by 
any mathematical device, but "a faithful and mag- 
nificent experimentor is straining to make one out of 
such material, and by such a device, that it will 
revolve naturally with the diurnal heavenly rotation." 
He continues with the statement that this po.ssibility 
is also suggested by the fact that the motions of 
comets, of tides, and of certain planets also follow that 
of the Sun and of the heavens. Only in the Opus 
minus, where he repeats reference to this device, docs 
he finally reveal that it is to be made to work by 
means of the loadstone. 

The form of Bacon's reference to Peregrinus is 
strongly reminiscent of the statement by Rolierlus 
Anglicus, already mentioned as an indication of 
preoccupation with diiunally rotating wheels, at a 
date (1271) remarkably close to that of the Epistle 
(1269) — .so much so that it could well be thought 
that the friend to which Peter was writing was either 
Robert himself or somebody associated with him, 
perhaps at the University of Paris — a natural place 
to which the itinerant Peter might communicate 
his findings. 

The fundamental cjuestion here, of course, is 
whether the idea of an automatic astronomical device 
was transmitted from Arabic, Indian, or Chinese 
sources, or whether it arose quite independently in 
this case as a natural concomitant of identifying the 
poles of the magnet with the poles of the heavens. 
We shall now attempt to show that the history of the 
magnetic compass might provide a quite independent 
argument in favour of the hypothesis that there was 
a 'stimulus' transmission. 

The Magnetic Compass as a Fellow-traveler 
from China 

The elusive history of the magnetic has 
many points in common with that of the mechanical 
clock. Just as we have astronomical models from 
the earliest times, so we find knowledge of the load- 
stone and some of its properties. Then, parallel to 
the development of protoclocks in China throughout 
the middle ages, we have the evidence analyzed by 
Necdham, showing the use of the magnet as a clivina- 
tory device and of the (nonmagnetic) south-jjointing 
chariot, which has been confusedly allied to the 
story. Curiously, and perhaps significantly the 

Chinese history comes to a head at just the same time 
for compasses and clocks, and a prime authority for 
the Chinese compass is Shen Kua (lO.^O-lO'JS) who 
also appears in connection with the clock of Su Sung, 
and who wrote about the mechanized annillary 
spheres and other models ca. 1086. 

Another similarity occurs in connection with the 
history of the compass in medieval Europe. The 
treatise of Peter Peregrinus, already discussed, pro- 
vides the first complete account of the magnetic 
compass with a pivoted needle and a circular scale, 
and this, as we have seen, may be connected with 
protoclocks and perpetual-motion devices. There 
are several earlier references, however, to the use of 
the directive properties of loadstone, mainly for use 
in navigation, but these earliest texts have a long 
history of erroneous interpretation which is only 
recently being cleared aw-ay. We know now that 
tlie famous passages in the Dc naluris rerum and De 
utensil ibiis of Alexander Neckham *^ {ca. 1187) and 
a text by Hugues de Berze ''^ (after ca. 1204) refer 
to nothing more than a floating magnet without 
pivot or scale, but using a pointer at right angles to 
the magnet, so that it pointed to the east, rather than 
the north or .south. A similar method is described 
(ca. 1200) in a poem by Guyot de Provins, and in a 
history of Jerusalem by Jacques de Vitry (1215).^^ 
It is of the greatest interest that, once more, all the 
evidence seems to be concentrated in France (Neck- 
ham was teaching in Paris) though at an earlier 
period than that for the protoclocks. 

The date might suggest the time of the first great 
wave of transmissal of learning from Islam, but it is 
clear that in this instance, peculiar for that reason, 
that Islam learned of the magnetic compass only 
after it was already known in the West. In the 
earliest Persian record, some anecdotes compiled by 
al-'.'\wfi ca. IZ.'^O,^" the instrument used by the cap- 
tain during a storm at sea has the form of a piece of 
hollow iron, shaped like a fish and made to float on 
the water after magnetization by rubbing with a 

'^ VV. E. May, "AlcNandcr Xcckham and the pivoird com- 
pass needle," Journal of the Institute of Navigation, 1955, vol. 8, 
no. 3, pp. 283-284. 

** W. E. May, "Hugues dc Berze and the mariner's com- 
pass," The Mariner'' s Mirror, 1953, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 103-106. 

'^ H. Balmcr, Beitrage zur Geschichte der Erkenntnis des Erdmag- 
netismus, Aarau, 1956, p. 52. 

"> The collection i^ the Garni 'a! Hikajat; the relevant passage 
beinp; given in German translation in Balmcr, op. cit. (foot- 
note 45), p. 54. 



Chronological Chart 

Classical Europe 

3rd C, B.C. Archimedes plaiielariiiin 
2nd C, B.C. Hipparchus Slereograpliic Projeclion 
I St C, B.C. Vitruvius hodometer and water clocks 
65, B.C. (ca.) Antikythcra machine 
ist C, A.D. Hero hodometer and water clocks 
and C, A.D. Salzbiug and Vosgcs anaphoric clocks 


807 Harun-al-Rashid 

850 (ca.) Earliest extant astrolabes 

1000 Geared astrolabe of al-Biruni 

1025 Equatorium text 

1 150 .Saladin clock 

1200 (ca.) Ridvvan water-clocks, per- 
petual motion and weight drive 
1206 al-Jazari clocks, etc. 
1 22 1 Geared astrolabe 
1232 Charlemagne clock 
1243 al-Konpas (compass) 

1272 Alfonsine corpus clock with mer- 
cury drum, equatoria 

1000 (Jcrbert astronomical model 

1 1 87 Neckham on compass 
1 1 g8 Jocelin on water clock 

1245 Villard clocktower,"escapement," 
perpetual motion 

1267 Villers Abbey clock 

1269 Percgrinus, compass and per- 
petual motion 

1271 Robertus .\nglicus, animated 
models and "perpetual motion" 

1285 Drover's water clock with wheel 
and weight drive 

1300 (ca.) French geared astrolabe 

1320 Richard of Wallinglbrd astro- 
nomical clock and equatorium 

1364 dc Dondi's astronomical clock 
with mechanical escapement 

later 14th C. Tradition of escapement 
clocks continues and degen- 
erates into simple timc-kcepcrs 

4th C, B.C. Power gearing 

and C, A.D. Chang llcng animated 
globe hodometer 
Continuing tradition of animated 
astronomical models 
725 Invention of Chinese escapement 
by I-Hsing and Liang Ling- 

1074 Shen Kua, clocks and magnetic 

1080 Su Sung clock built 
iioi Su Sung clock destroyed 


1 1 00 (ca.) .Surya Siddhanta animated 
astronomical models and per- 
petual motion 

1150 {ca.) Siddhanta Siromani ani- 
mated models and perpetual 



loadstone: tlio fishlikc form is very significant, for 
this is distinctly Chinese practice. In a second 
Muslim reference, that of Bailak al-QabajaqI {ca. 
1282), the ordinary wet-compass is termed "al- 
konbas," another indication that it was foreign to 
that language and culture. ^^ 

There is therefore reasonable grounds for supijort- 
ing the medieval European tradition that the mag- 
netic compass had first come from China, though one 
cannot well admit that the first news of it was brought, 
as the legend states, by Marco Polo, when he re- 
turned home in 1260. There might well have been 
another wave of interest, giving the impetus to Peter 
Peregrinus at this time, but an earlier transmission, 
perhaps along the silk road or by travelers in cru- 
sades, must be postulated to account for the evidence 
in Europe, ca. 1200. The earlier influx docs not play 
any great part in otn- main story; it arrived in Euro[)e 
before the transmission of astronomy from Islam had 
got under way sufficiently to make protoclocks a 

<' Balmer, op. cil. (footnote 45), p. 53. 

subject of interest. For a second transmission, we 
have already seen how the relevant texts seem to 
cluster, in France ca. 1270, around a complex in which 
the protoclocks seem comhinccl wiih the ideas of 
perpciual motion wheels and wiili new inforjnation 
about the magnetic compass. 

The [)()int of this jiaper is that such a complex 
exists, cutting across the histories of the clock, the 
various types of astronomical machines, and the 
magnetic compass, and including the origin of "self- 
moving wheels." It seems to trace a path extending 
from China, through India and through Eastern and 
Western Islam, ending in Europe in the Middle 
Ages. This path is not a simple one, for the various 
elements make their appearances in different combi- 
nations from ])lace to place, sometimes one may be 
dominant, sometimes another may be al)scn(. Only 
by treating it as a whole has it been [lossible lo pro- 
duce the threads of continuity wliirh will, I hope, 
make further research jjossihle, circumventing the 
blind alleys found iit the past and leading eventually 
to a complete understanding of the first complicated 
scientific- machines. 



Contributions from 
The Museum of History and Technology: 

Paper 7 

Mine Pumping in 
Agricola's Time and Later 

Robert P. Midtluiiif 


By Robert P Multhauf 



Coins are a source of information much used by his- 
torians. Elaborately detailed mining landscapes on 16th- 
century German coins in the National Museum^ discovered 
by the curator of numismatics and hi ought to the author s 
attention, led to this study of early fnine-pumping devices. 

The Author: Robert P. Multhauf is curator of 
Science and Technology', Aiuseum of History and 
Technology', in the Smithsonian Institution s United 
States National Museum. 

THE HABIT of heavy reliance on a single source 
for the substance of the history of Medieval 
and Renaissance mining techniques in Europe has 
led to a rather drastic over-simplification of that his- 
tory, a condition which persists tenaciously in the 
recent accounts of Parsons, Wolf, and Bromehead.' 
Our preoccupation with Agricola, who has been well 
known to the English-language public since the 
Hoovers' translation of 1912, seems to have in- 
hibited the investigation of the development of the 
machines he describes so elegantly. More seriously, 
the opinion that mining techniques remained essen- 
tially the same for a century or two beyond his time 
appears to have hardened into a conviction." 

' VV. B. Parsons, Engineers and engineering in the Renaissance, 
Baltimore, 1939. Abraham Wolf, A history of science, technology, 
and philosophy in the 16th and 17th centuries. New York, 1935; and 
A history of science, technology and philosophy in the eighteenth cen- 
tury, London, 1938. C. M. Bromehead, "Mining and quarry- 
ing to the seventeenth century," in Charles Singer and others, 
A history of technology, vol. 2, Oxford, 1956. 

- .\ccording to Parsons (o/». cit., footnote 1, p. 629) the intro- 
duction of machinery worked by animals and falling water, 
"radical improvements" of the 15th century, fixed the devel- 
opment of the art "until the eighteenth, and, in some respects, 
even well into the nineteenth century." Wolf in his History of 
science . . . in the eighteenth century (p. 629, see footnote 1) 
agrees, saying that "apart from [the steam engine] mining 
methods remained [during the 18th century] essentially similar 
to those described in Agricola's De re metallica." Bromehead 
(op. cit., footnote 1, p. 22), in referring to the date 1673 also 
sees "no appreciable change in methods of mining since 

The history of the technology of mining, as dis- 
tinguished from metallurgy, is largely a history of 
mechanization, and thai mechanization has until the 
last century consisted principally in the development 
of what Agricola calls tractonae — hauling machines. 
That hauling machines of some complexity, .\rchi- 
median screws and a kind of noria, were used by the 
Romans for dewatcring mines has been known for 
.some lime. Evidence of the survival of this tech- 
nology beyond the fall of Rome remains to be found, 
and it is generally agreed that mining activity de- 
clined through the first iniiicnium. The revival and 
extension of mining in the central European areas of 
German settlement is thought to have occurred from 
the 10th century, with an intensive development of 
the region known to Agricola (Erzgebirge) in the 
13th century.' 

This revival appears to have paralleled in general 
the political and cultural revival, but, as in any 
mining region, the exhaustion of easily workable 
surface deposits marked a critical point, when the 
necessity of deeper mining led to the construction of 
supported tunnels and the introduction of machinery 
for removing ores and water from deep mines. On 
the basis of revi.^ions cf capital structure and mining 
law which he regards as inspired by the financial 
necessities of deep mining, Bechtel dates this develop- 

' Parsons, op. cit. (footnote 1), p. 179. T. A. Rickard, .\lan 
and metals, New York. 1932, vol. 2, pp. 519-521 



Mine-Pumping Machinery Illustrated By Brunswick Multiple Talers 

These large silver coins weighing up to 1 5 ounces were 
first issued in 1574 in Brunswick by Duke Julius (1568- 
1589) of the VVolfcnbutlel line. Their historical back- 
ground is rather unusual and interesting. 

In 1570 the Duke decided to increase the output of his 
silver mines in the Hatz and arranged for the opening of 
three new mines. In order to insure the retention of a 
portion of this increased silver output under his control, 
the Duke decided to issue an entirely new kind of silver 
coin which he called "Loescr," meaning redeemer. These 
were larger than taler-size pieces, and were struck in 
denominations from 1'^ to 16 talers. The Duke ordered 
that each of his subjects was to purchase one of these 
large coins, the size of the coin to be acquired depending 
on the individual's wealth. The owners were not allowed 
to use these pieces in everyday trade, but could pawn 
them in case of dire need. They were expected to produce 
them at any time upon demand. Tints a means of hoard- 
ing, a "treasure piece," was created, and die risk of 
draining the country's wealth through replacement of 
good, full-weight silver coins with imported base cur- 
rency was to some extent limited. At the same time, the 
Duke had a considerable sum of money at his disposal 
in case of emergency. 

Similar Loesers were issued up to 1688 by different 
rulers of Brunswick. Some of the later issues arc com- 
memorative in character and might have sers'cd for 
presentation purposes. The workmanship of the majority 
is exquisite. They portray personages real and ideal 
and ornate coats of arms, in addition to the elaborate 
mining landscapes shown here. The U.S. National 
Museum is fortunate in having a number of examples 
through the generosity of Mr. Paul A. Straub. 

For calling my attention to these coins, and for other 
invaluable assistance, I am indebted to the former curator 
of the numismatic collections of the U.S. National 
Museum, the late Stuart Mosher, and to the present 
curator. Dr. V. Clain-Stefanelli. 

Figure i shows an overshot waterwheel driving through 
Stangenkunsten pumps in three separate shafts, each 
covered by the typical conical shaft house. It is possible 
that these shaft houses also cover horse whims used to 
operate bucket hoists such as that shown in the lower 
center. A house with three chimneys in the background 
may be the smelter. The horse over whose head the 
Deity holds a wreath is a symbol of Lunebcrg. 

mcnt from the inid-14th century.^ The mid-Hth 
century situation is confused by the occurrence of 
the Black Death, which reduced mining activity 
drastically, and the events of which Rechtel speaks 
have been put as much as 
a century later.* In any 
case, the development of 
deep-mining methods had 

< Hcinrich Bechtcl, Wirlschajl- 
stil des deulschen Spaimiltdaltns, 
Munich, 1930, pp. 202-203. 
Bechtel calls this one of the 
most revolutionary industrial 
developments of the midtlle 

' Rickard {op. cit., footnote 3, 
pp. 547-554, 561) also speaks 
of a decline through the ex- 
haustion of surface deposits, but 
dates the revival 1480-1570. 
He supports this conclusion by 
statistics on the leading mine 
at Raminelsbcrg, which was 
unproductive from the Black 
Death (1347) to 1450, and only 
slightly active before 1518. 

clearly made considerable progress in nonferrous 
mines when the De re metallka was written, in 1556. 
For a detailed description of the mechanical equip- 
ment of this era we are largely indebted to Agricola. 

He classifies hauling ma- 
chines into four types; the 
ordinary bucket windlass, 
the piston (suction) pump, 
the chain of dippers, and 
the rag and chain pump. 
.Although the first three had 
been known in antiquity, 
and the last perhaps a cen- 
tury before his time," their 

Figure i. — Brunswick Silver 3's Taler, Johann 
Friedrich, 1677. (U. S. .Xtilionat Atusfum, Paul A. 
Straub coll.; Smithsonian photo 43334-C). 

• According to F. M. Fcldhaus 
{Die Technik. I^ipzig and Berlin, 
1914, p. 833.), a manuscript il- 
lustration of this type of pump, 
wliich he calls SchOpfkolbcn- 
kcttc, appears in the Mariano 
Ck)dcx latinus 197, B. 180, 
dated 1438, in the Munich 


mini: pumping in .\(;ricoi.a s timk and i.aier 


Figure 2. — Brunswick Silver iji Ialer, Ernst 
August, 1688. {U. S. National Afuseum, Paul A. Straub 
coll.; Smithsonian photo 43334-^.) 

use in mining would appear to dale I'roiii the mid- 
14lh century or later. His is not an historical account, 
and one who attempts to compare it with others of 
contemporary or later times encounters a difliculty 
in his use of descriptive Latin names rather than the 
common German names used by most others. English 
and German editors have interpreted them as 
follows: '' 





water bucket 



suction puin|) 



chain of dijipcrs 

Kanncn (wcrke), 
Bulgenkunst * 



rag and chain 


pilis aquas 


Taschenkunst ' 


' Based on a comparison of the following editions of .Agricola, 
De re melallica: Froben, Basel, 1556 (in Latin; the first edition); 
The Mining Magazine, London, 1912 (English translation by 
H. C. and L. H. Hoover); VDI, Berlin, 1928 (German 
translation by Carl Schiffner). 

* The emergence of the term Kunst in German mining 
terminology is connected with the application of water power, 
especially to pumping (see Heinrich Veith, Deutsches Berg- 
worterbuch, Breslau, 1870, article "Kunst'). 

' According to Veith {pp. c't., footnote 8, p. 306), B. Rossler, 
in his Speculum melallurgiae potitissimum (Dresden, 1700, p. 41) 
says that the Taschenkunst (pocket-work) was used with a 
pipe, like the rag and chain pump, and the translator of the 
German (1928) edition of jDc re metallica also uses Heinzen and 
Taschcn interchangeably. Calvor and others, however, seem 
to use Taschenkunst for the ordinary chain of dippers, which 
seems belter suited to its literal meaning. 

Figure 2 shows two shaft-houses covering pumps driven 
by Stangenkunsten. The source of power, hidden by the 
curious "log cabin" at the right, was probably a water- 
wheel. I have not found evidence that the .Slangenkunst 
was used to operate bucket hoists, as appears to be the 
case here. It will be noticed that the above and below 
ground portions of these illustrations do not correlate 
precisely. This coin, like the others, shows miners doing 
various things familiar from Agricola —divining, digging, 
carrying, and operating windlasses. 

Figure 3 exhibits the principal advantage of the .Slan- 
genkunst, in its utilization to connect a waterwheel 
located in a valley stream to driven inachinery on the 
mountain some distance above. The lute-playing girl 

The resemblance of the German term for bag 
(Bulge) to the Latin term for bucket (bulga) instead 
of the Latin term for bag (canalis), and the presence 
of buckets (Kiibeln), bags (Bulgen), pockets 
(Taschen), or cans (Kannen) as components of tliree 
of Agricola's four categories of hauling machines are 
reasons enough for the apparent superfluity of 
German names, if not for his decision to avoid the 
use of German names. Bui it should also be noted 
that the names sometimes refer to a pump and its 
prime mover considered as a single machine. Such 

Figure 4. — Medal, 1690, .Siiowinc St. Anna Mine, 
near Freiberg. {Photo courtesy of Stadtisches Museum, 



(Lautenspielerin) refers to the Lautcntal mine. A 
Stangenkiinsi (fig. 7) existed here as recently as 1930. 

The mines shown in figuies 1-3 are in the Harz region. 

I'igurcs 4 and 5 show the St. .Xnna mine in the Erzgc- 
birge, near Freiberg, as iUustrated on a medal in the 
Brunswick museum. Prominent in figure 4 is an aque- 
duct, one function of which is to supply a walcrwheel in 
the house below, which in turn delivers power through 
the Stangenkimst to two open shafts. The reverse 
(fig. 5), an unusually fine view of the inner workings of 
a mine, shows, above ground, a t\pical horse whim 
driving a bucket windlass. Below ground is shown a 
crank-driven piston puinp typical of those driven by 
Stangenkunst. In this case, however, it is driven by 
an underground vertical treadmill. 

is the case with the Kehrrad, a bucket windlass 
driven by a reversible waterwheel which Agricola 
describes as his largest hauling inachine.'" 

'"Agricola, op. cil. (footnote 7), ed. Hoover, p. 199. His 
contemporary and fellow-townsman Mathesius equates the 
Kehrrad to the Bulgenkunst [Sarepla, p. 145, Nurnberg, 1571). 
According to Veith {op. cil., footnote 8, p. 286), Sebastian 
Miinster in his Cosmographei ... (p. 381, Basel, 1558), had 
previously mentioned its use in the mines of Meissen; and its 
introduction has been put as early as 1500 by Otto Vogel 
("Christopher Pohlem und seine Beziehungcn zum Harzcr 
Bergbau," Beilrdge z"r Gescliichle der Technik und Industrie, 1913, 
vol. 5, p. 324.) 

Figure 3. — Brunswick Silver 4 Taler, Ernst 
August, 1685. {U. S. National Museum, Paul A. 
Straub coll.; Smithsonian photo 43334--4.) 

Agricola describes 23 hauling devices of these four 
types, the diversity resulting generally from the 
application of three types of prime movers, men, 
horses, and waterwheels, and in the endowment of 
each in turn with a mechanical advantage in the 
form of gearing." Although he does not specify 
clearly the relative importance of the various pumps, 
the majority (13) use man as the prime inover. He 
speaks of the advantages of some, noting that the 
horse whim has a power two and a half times that of 
the man windlass, and emphasizing the even greater 
power available in flowing water "when a running 
stream can be diverted to a mine." The most 
powerful machine then in use for deep mines ap- 
pears to have been the horse-powered rag and chain 

Such, then, were the important luining machines of 
this early period of deep mining, according to the 
leading authority. But did they continue, as has 
Ix-cn claimed, to be the only important machines of 
the subsequent century? G. E. Lohneyss," \\Titing 
a little over a half century after the publication of 
De re metallica, declared: 

The old miners [altcn Berglcutc] had Hcintzcn, Kcrratt, 
Bulgenkunst, Taschen-kunsi, Pum(H-n, with which one 
lifted water with cans on pulleys or with a treadmill; and 

Figure 5. — Reverse or Medal shown in figure 4. 
{Photo courtesy of Stadtisches Museum, Braunschweig.) 

" Agricola, op. cil. (footnote 7), cd. Hoover, pp. 160-199. 
" G. E. Lohncyss, BrrichI ran Bergwrrktn, 1619?, n. p., p. 3. 









1 ■^^ 

•^'i <>„<^^''^^^"*"*««*i^^^ 



Figure 6. — Sta.ngenkunst, SnowiNr, Driving Wheel, Teldkunst, and Kunstkreuz. From 

H. Calvor (see footnote 15). 

they devised and constructed these in wliich the poor people 
moved Hlce cattle and wore themselves out. At that time 
the)- had powerful machines (Kunst) using swift water, 
although it cost much to erect and maintain them, and was 
very dangerous since an iron chain of a Bulgenkunst alone 
often weighed 200 centner [over 10 tons] and more. 

But today's artisan [jetzigen Kiinstler] far surpasses the 
old . . . since we have in the present time invented many 
other mining machines; such as the Stangmkunst mil c/em 
krummen ^apfjen, which raises water at small cost over 100 
Laciiter [562 feet]. 

The Stangenkunst, which can be roughly trans- 
lated as "rod work with crank," wa.s a piston punij) 
driven through a crank and rods by a prime mover 
located at a distant point. Agricola describes a 
crank-driven piston pump, calling it a new machine 
invented ten years earlier.'^ But it is not driven by 

'^Agricola, op. cit. (footnote 7), cd. Hoover, pp. 184-185. 
The crank was centuries old at this time, and had been ap- 
plied to pumping earlier than the time mentioned by Agri- 
cola, although perhaps not in mining. A drawing dated 1405 
shows an .\rchimcdian screw turned i)y a crank (Feldhaus, 
op. cit., footnote 6, p. 834). The Mitlelaltertiche Hausbuch 
(ed. H. T. Bossert and W. F. Storck, Leipzig, 1912, Tafcl 32), 
a German description of technology that appeared in 1480, 
shows an arrangement very like that described by Agricola, 
although not in mining service. 

a di.stant prime mo\-er. Like his other water- 
powered hauling machines it can only be used "when 
a running stream can be diverted to a mine." So far 
as we can determine from internal evidence, Agri- 
cola did not know the Stangenkunst. 

Although the full development of the Stangenkunst 
came later, it was apparently introduced in Agricola's 
time. Its introduction to the Erzgebirge has been 
put as early as 1550." According to another authority 
it was introduced to the Harz in 1565 by one Heinrich 
Eschcnbach of Meissen.'* Its significance is only 
made clear to us by later authorities. As shown in 
figure 3 it was adapted to the utilization of a distant 
stream, through the Feldstangen, an extended hori- 
zontal series of reciprocating rods, and the Kunst- 
kreuz (fig. 6), a lever in the shape of a cross for 
changing at right angles the direction of power 
transmission. These imiirovements may have been 
almost contemporaneous with Agricola, as Calvor 

" O. Fritschc and A. Wagenbreth, "Die Wasscrhaltungs- 
maschinen bei Agricola und sein Einfluss auf ihre wcitere 
Entwicklung," in Deutsche Akademie dec W'iisenschajt z" Berlin, 
Groigiiis Agricola, (East) Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1953, p. 112. 

'^Hennig Calvor, Ada hislorico-chronologico-mechanica circa 
Mctalliirgiam . . . , Braunschweig, 1763, pp. 36-37. 



mentions the use of the Fcldkunsi. 
which term signified the extended rods, 
as having been known in 1565. 

The disadvantage of moving the 
weight of a long extension of rods was 
obviated, during the 17th century, 
through the use of a double set of 
balanced rods, resembling a panto- 
graph. At some later date the horse 
whim was fitted with a crank and 
adapted to the Stangenkunst,'" thus 
permitting the establishment of a veri- 
table power network, as suggested in 
figure 1. 

The Freiberg mine director Martin 
Planer reported in 1570 the installation 
since 1557 of thirty-eight "Kunsten und 
Zeugen" in mines under his charge. 
That these were water-powered ma- 
chines is clear from his remark that 
their cost was only 10 to 20 percent 
that of "Pferden und Kncchten." '" It 
is likely that many if not most were 
Stangcnkunsten, for mining treatises of 
the 17th and 18th centuries testify to 
the continuous extension of this mecha- 

Perhaps the most striking evidence 
of its importance is its representation 
on the illustrated coinage of the 17th century. These 
multiple talers (figs. 1, 2, 3), happy products of the 
ingenious fiscal policies of the Dukes of Brunswick, 
picture mining activity in the 17th century no less 
elegantly than do the woodcuts of De re metallica a 
century earlier. The Stangenkunst received its most 
spectacular application in France, in its application 
to the driving of the second- and third-stage pumps 
in the famous waterworks at Marly (1681-88), but 

'" I have been unable to find an early reference to this 
innovation, which appears in a sketch of 1784-85 iUustrating 
Conrad MaLschoss', "Die Maschinen des deutschcn Berg- und 
Huttcnwescns vor 100 Jahren," Beitriige cer Geschichle der Technik 
und Industrie (1909), Band I, p. 7. Its introduction may be 
connected with the appearance of the term Rosskunst for the 
horse windlass, known earlier as the Gopel. 

" "Bericht des Ber^erwalters .Martin Planer ilbcr den Stand 
des Freibcrger Bcrgbaues im Jahre 1570,"' ed. R. Wenijler, 
Millheitungen Freibnger Allnlumstrrein, 1898, vol. 35, pp. 75- 83. 

" The description of the Stangenkimst in its various modifica- 
tions is one of the chief topics of the prenously cited work of 
Calvor (footnote 15), and from his and other references it is 
clear that the subject was also treated extensively by such 
earlier writers as Lohneyss (1617) and Rossler (1700). 

Figure 7. — Feldgestange (Sta.ncenkl'.nst) Near 
Lautent.\l. From C. Matschoss, Technische Kul- 
turdenkmal, Munich, 1932. 

its real importance is better illustrated in central 
Europe, by the many descriptions and drawings 
showing its use in the mines, driving machinery as 
distant as a mile '■' from the source of power. 

It seems, therefore, that Lohneyss" "old miners"' 
were those described by .Agricola, and that the mine- 
hauling machinery u.scd in central European mines 
changed in the century after him far more than has 
been recognized.-'' This thesis may further cast 
some light on other technological questions. The 

'» Fritsche and Wagenbreth, op. cil. (footnote 14), p. 112. 

'" The hauling of ori-s, as opposed to water, seems to have 
remained as shown by .Vgricola tmlil the end of the 17th cen- 
tury. In 1694, however, the famous .Swedish engineer Chris- 
topher Polhem built at Falim a waler-powere<l conveyer 
s>-stem which brought the ore from the point of origin in the 
mine to the smelter in a single operation, terminating with 
tlic automatic imloading of the buckets (Vogel, op. cil., foot- 
note 10, p. 306). 



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.jMiruif.iu f^utieu.t VfjJtiltj ^tttntn cfb fht^ne,fue Jum I'^^nnt Ixriut .it chemm- 

par X- ill Fcr , 


liinj ,/c Li 

Ruiic r 

^ (' / // c 


Figure 8. — The Waterworks at Marlv-le-Ro!, on the Seine River, Built in 1684 to Supply the Fountains at the Roval 
Palace at V'erseilles. From a print by dc Fcr, 1705. {Smithsonian photo 45593.) 

connection between the urs;cncy of the problem of 
mine drainage in England, and the invention of the 
steam engine, has often been suggested.^' Perhaps 
the "backwardness" of Germany in steam-engine 
experimentation, and later in the introduction of the 
Newcomen engine, was to some extent due to tlie 
adequacy of existing machinery to meet the problem 
of mine flooding, for it is not clear that this problem 
existed on the continent. ^^ 

-' Dickinson, H. VV., A short history oj the steam engine, New 
York, n. d., p. 3. 

22 In 1673 Edward Browne visited Hungary and the Erzgc- 
birge. His report on the trip, A briej account oj some travels in 
diverse parts oJ Europe (2nd cd., London, 1685, p. 170), says 
little about machinery, but does not mention Hooding as a 
serious problem. Of an 84-fathom mine called AufT der 
Halsbrucker, near Freiberg, he says "'they arc not so much 
troubled with water, and have very good engines to draw 

A comparison of the technic]ues described by 
Agricola with those of a century later sugsresls that 
this was a century of significant progress in that 
earlier industrial revolution described by Mumford 
as his "Eotechnic phase," characterized by "'the 
diminished use of human beings as prime movers, 
and the separation of the jjrocluetion of energy from 
its application and immediate control."^' 

water out." Yet the chain of dippers and rag and chain pump 
were evidently fallen into disuse, as they do not appear among 
the mining machines reported by Fritschc and VVagcnbreth 
as having been described by Lohneyss (1617) or Rossler 
(1700); and Fritschc and Wagenbreth declare that German 
hydraulic machinery was able to compete with the steam 
engine in mine dewatering for some time into the 19th century 
(op. cit., footnote 14, pp. Ill, 112). 

■^ Lewis Mumford, Technics and civilization, New York, 1934, 
p. 112. 



Contributions from 
The Museum of History and Technology: 

Paper 8 

The Natural Philosophy of 
William Gilbert and His Predecessors 

IV. James King 


By W James King 




Until several decades ago, the physical sciences were 
considered to have had their origins in the 17th century — 
mechanics beginning with men Like Galileo Galilei and 
magnetism ivith men like the Elixjihcthan physician and 
scientist William Gilbert. 

Historians of science, however, have traced many of the 
17th century's concepts of tncchanics hack into the Middle 
Ages. Here, Gilbert' s explanation of the loadstone and 
its powers is compared with explanations to he found in 
the Middle Ages and earlier. 

From this comparison it appears that Gilbert can best 
be understood by considering him not so much a herald 
of the new science as a modifier of the old. 

The Author : W. James King is curator of electricity. 
Museum of History and Technology, in the Smithsonian 
Institution' s United States National Musettm. 

THE \K.\R 1600 SAW the puhlkiition Ijy an English 
physician, William Gilbert, of a book on the 
loadstone. Entitled De magnele, ' it has traditionally 
been credited with laying a foundation for the 
modern science of electricity and magnetism. The 
following essay is an attempt U) examine the basis 

' William Gilbert, De magnele, magnelicisque corpntihus et de 
magna magnele telture; physiologia nova, plurimis & argumentis, £? 
expeiimentis, demonshala, London, 1600, 240 pp., with an intro- 
duction by Edward Wright. All references to Gilbert in this 
article, unless otherwise noted, are to the .'\mcrican translation 
by P. Fleury Mottelay, 368 pp., published in .Xew York in 1893, 
and are designated by the letter M. However, the Latin text 
of the 1600 edition has been quoted wherever I have disagreed 
with the Mottelay translation. 

.\ good source of information on Gilbert is Dr. Duane H. D. 
Roller's doctoral thesis, written under the direction of Dr. 
I. B. Cohen of Harvard University. Dr. Roller, at present 
Curator of the De Golyer Collection at the University of Okla- 
homa, informed me that an expanded version of his dissertation 
will shortly appear in book form. Unfortunately his researches 
were not known to me until after this article was completed. 

for such a tradition by determining what (iilbert's 
original contributions to these sciences were, and 
to make explicit the sense in which he may be con- 
sidered as being dependent upon earlier work. In 
this manner a more accurate estimate of his position 
in the history of science may be made. 

One criterion as to the book's significance in the 
history of science can be applied almost immediately. 
A number of historians have pointed to the intro- 
duction of numbers and geometry as marking a 
watershed between the modern and the medieval 
understanding of nature. Thus A. Koyrc considers 
the Archimcdeanization of space as one of the neces- 
sary features of the development of modern astron- 
omy and physics." A. N. Whitehead and E. Ca.ssirer 
have turned to measurement and the quantification 
of force as marking this transition.' Howc\er, the 

- Alexandre Koyre, fjtuJes galileennes, Paris, 1939 

^ Alfred N. Whitehead, Science and llie modem world, New 

York, 1925, ch. 3; Ernst Cassirer, Das ErkennlnisptobUm, ed. 3, 

Berlin, 1922, vol. 1, pp. 314-318, 352-359. 





B.E R T I C O L C E S T Fl E N- 



b E .HA G N E T E, M A G N E T J- 

no"i15ngrfctc tcllure ; "Pliyfiologia noua, 

• f/urims i^ argwHentis^ (y*'cxpe^ 
rinicniis dcnionftra'ta. 

/"t ON DIM I -C^ 

■.• MBC- ■• ■ 

» <• 

^* ... 


Figure I —William Gilbert's Book on thk Loadstone, Title Page of the First Edition, 
FROM A Copy in the Library of Congress. (P/io/o courttsy of the Library of Congrfss.) 

471274—50 9 


obvious absence * of such techniques in De magnete 
makes it difficult to consider Gilbert as a founder of 
modern electricity and magnetism in this sense. 

There is another sense in which it is possible to 
contend that Gilbert's treatise introduced modern 
studies in these fields. He has frequently been 
credited with the introduction of the inductive 
method based upon stubborn facts, in contrast to 
the methods and content of medieval Aristotelianism.^ 
No science can be based upon faulty observations 
and certainly much of De magnete was devoted to the 
destruction of the fantastic tales and occult sym- 
pathies of the Romans, the medieval writers, and the 
Renaissance. However, let us also remember that 
Gilbert added few novel empirical facts of a 
fundamental nature to previous observations on the 
loadstone. Gilbert's experimental work was in large 
part an expansion of Pctrus Peregrinus' De magnete 
of 1269,° and a development of works like Robert Nor- 
man's The new attractive,' in which the author discussed 
how one could show experimentally the declination and 
inclination of a magnetized needle, and like William 
Borough's Discourse on the variation oj the compass or 
magnetized needle,^ in which the author suggested the 
use of magnetic declination and inclination for navi- 
gational purposes but felt too little was known about 
it. That other sea-going nations had been considering 

* However, see M: pp. 161, 162, 168, 335. 

' For example, William Whcwcll, History of the inductive 
sciences, ed. 3, New York, 1858, vol. 2, pp. 192 and 217; Charles 
Singer, A short history of science to the nineteenth century, Oxford, 
1943, pp. 188 and 343; and A. R. Hall, The scientific revolution, 
Boston, 1956, p. 185. 

* Petti Peregrini maricurlenis, de magnete, sen rota perpetui molus, 
liliellus, a reprint of the 1558 Angsburg edition in J. G. G. 
Hellmann, Rara magnetica, Berlin, 1898, not paginated. A 
number of editions of Peregrinus, work, both ascribed to him 
and plagiarized from him, appeared in the 16th century (see 
Heinz Balmer, Beitidge zur Geschichte der Erkenntnis des Erdmag- 
netismus, Aarau, 1956, pp. 249-255). 

' Hellmann, ibid., Robert Norman, The newe attractive, con- 
lainyng a short discourse of the magnes or lodestone, and amongest other 
his verlues, of a newe discovered secret and sulitill properlie, concernyng 
the declinyng of the needle, touched therewith under the plaine of the 
horizon. Now first Jounde out by Robeit jVoi?nan Hydt ographer . 
London, 1581. The possibility is present that Norman's work 
was a direct stimulus to Gilbert, for Wright's introduction to 
De magnete stated that Gilbert started his study of magnetism 
the year following the publication of Norman's book. 

* Hellman, ibid., William Borough, .i discourse of the variation 
of the compasse, or magneticatl needle. ^therein is mathematically 
shewed, the manner of the observation, effects, and application thereof, 
made by W. B. And is to be annexed to the newe attractive of R. N. 
London, 1596. 

using the properties of the magnetic compass to solve 
their problems of navigation in the same manner can 
be seen from Simon Ste\in's De havenvinding.* 

Instead of new experimental information, Gilbert's 
major contribution to natural philosophy was that 
revealed in the title of his book — a new philosophy 
of nature, or physiology, as he called it, after the 
early Greeks. Gilbert's attempt to organize the mass 
of empirical information and speculation that came 
from scholars and artisans, from chart and instru- 
ment makers, made him "the father of the magnetic 
Philosophy." '" 

Gilbert's De magnete was not the first attempt to 
determine the nature of the loadstone and to explain 
how it could influence other loadstones or iron. It 
is typical of Greek philosophy that one of the first 
references we have to the loadstone is not to its 
properties but to the problem of how to explain these 
properties. Aristotle *' preserved the solution of the 
first of the Ionian physiologists: "Thales too . . . 
seems to suppose that the soul is in a sense the cause 
of movement, since he says that a stone has a soul 
because it causes movement to iron." Plato turned 
to a similar animistic explanation in his dialogue, 
/o«.'" Such an animistic solution pcr\a(lccl manv of 
the later explanations. 

That a mechanical explanation is also possible was 
shown by Plato in his Timaeus.^^ He argued that 
since a \acuum does not exist, there must be a 
plenum throughout all space. Motion of this 
plenum can carry objects along \vith it, and one 
could in this manner explain attractions like that due 
to amber and the loadstone. 

.■\nother mechanical explanation was based upon 
a postulated tendency of atoms to move into a vac- 
uum rather than upon the latter's non-existence. 
Lucretius restated this Epicurean explanation in his 

' Hellman, tbid., Simon Stevin, De haveminding, Leyden, 1599. 
It is interesting to note that Wright translated Stevin's work 
into English. 

'" As Edward Wright was to call him in his introduction. 

" Aristotle, On the soul, translated by W. S. Hett, Loeb 
Classical Library, London, 1935, 405a20 (see also 411a8: 
"Some think that the soul pervades the whole universe, whence 
perhaps came Thales' view that everything is full of gods"). 

'- Plato, Ion, translated by W. R. M. Lamb, Loeb Classical 
Library, London, 1925, 533 (see also 536). 

'3 Plato, Timaeus, translated by R. G. Bury, Loeb Classical 
Library, London, 1929, 80. It is difficult to determine which 
explanation Plato preferred, for in Ixjih cases the speaker may 
be only a foil for Plato's opinion raihcr than an expression 
of these opinions. 



De reriini mitura}* Atoms from the loadstone push 
away the air and tend to cause a vacimm to form 
outside the loadstone. The structure of iron is such 
that it, unlike other materials, can be pushed into 
this empty space by the throni^ine; atoms of air be- 
yond it. 

Galen " returned to a quasi-animistic solution in 
his denial of Epicurus' ara;ument, which he stated 
somewhat difierently from Lucretius. One can infer 
that Galen held that all things have, to a greater or 
lesser degree, a sympathetic faculty of attracting \\s 
specific, or proper, cjuality to itself.'" The loadstone 
is only an inanimate example of what one finds in 
nutritive organs in organic beings. 

One of the few writers whose explanations of the 
loadstone Gilbert mentioned with approval is St. 
Thomas Aquinas. Although the medieval scholastic 
philosophy of St. Thomas seems foreign to our way 
of thinking, it formed a background to many of Gil- 
bert's concepts, as well as to those of his predeces.sors. 
and it will assist our di.scusslon to consider briefly 
Thomist philosophy and to make its terminology 
explicit at this point. '^ 

In scholastic philosophy, all beings and substances 
arc a coalescence of inchoate matter and enacting 
form. Form is that which gives being to matter and 
which is responsible for the "virtus" or power to 
change, since matter in itself is inert. Moreover, 
forms can be grasped intellectually, whence the 
nature of a being or a substance can be known. Any 
explanation of phenomena has to be based upon 
these innate natures, for only if the nature of a sub- 
stance is known can its properties be understood. 
Inanimate natures are determined by observation, 
abstraction, and induction, or by classification." 

The nature of a substance is causally prior to its 
properties; while the definition of the nature is logi- 
cally prior to these properties. Thus, what we call 

'* Lucretius, De rerum natura, translated by \V. H. D. Rouse, 
Loeb Classical Library, London, 1924, bk. VI, lines 998-1041. 

'* Galen, On the natural /acuities, translated by A. S. Brock, 
Loeb Classical Library, London, 1916, bk. 1 and bk. 3. A 
view similar to tliis appeared in Plato, Timaeus, 81 (sec foot- 
note 13). 

" This same concept was to reappear in the Middle Ages as 
the inclinatio ad simile. 

" The background for much of tlie following was derived 
from Annalicsc Maier, An der Grenze von Scholaslik und j\'alur- 
wissenchajt, ed 2, Rome, 1952. 

" St. Thomas' epistemology for the natural inanimate world 
was based upon Aristotle's dictum: that which is in the mind 
was in the senses first. 

the theory of a substance is expressed in its defini- 
tion, and its properties can be deduced from this 

The world of St. Thomas is not a static one, but 
one of the .Aristotelian motions of quantity (change 
of size), of quality (alteration), and of place (loco- 
motion) . Another kind of change is that of substance, 
called generation and corruption, but this is a muta- 
tion, occurring instantly, rather than a motion, that 
requires time. In mutation the essential nature is 
replaced by a new substantial form. 

.Ml these changes are motivated by a causal hier- 
archy that extends from the First Cause, the "Dator 
Formarum," or Creator, to .separate intellectual sub- 
stances that may be angels or demons, to the celestial 
bodies that are the "generantia" of the substantial 
forms of the elements and finally to the four prime 
qualities (dry and wet, hot and cold) of the substantial 
forms. Accidental forms are motivated by the sub- 
stantial forms through the instrumentality of the four 
prime qualities, which can only act by material 

The only causal agents in this hierarchy that are 
learned through the senses are the tangible qualities. 
Usually the prime qualities are not observed directly, 
but only other qualities compounded of them. One 
of the problems of scholastic philosophy was the 
incorporation, into this system of efficient agents, 
of other qualities, such as the qualities of gravity 
and levity that are responsible for upward and down- 
ward motion. 

Besides the causal hierarchy of forms, the natural 
world of St. Thomas existed in a substantial and spatial 
hierarchy. .\11 substances whether an element or a 
mixture of elements have a place in this hierarchy 
by virtue of their nature. If the material were re- 
moved from its proper place, it would tend to return. 
In this manner is obtained the natural downward 
motion of earth and the natural upward motion 
of fire. 

Local motion can also be caused by the '"virtus coeli" 
generating a new form, or through the qualitative 
change of alteration. Since each element and mixture 
has its own natural place in the hierarchy of material 
substances, and this place is determined by its nature, 
changes of nature due to a change of the form can 
produce local motion. If before change the substance 
is in its natural place, it need not be aftcnvards, 
and if not, would then tend to move to its new 
natural place. 

It will be noted that the scholastic explanation of 



inanimate motion in\-olvcd the action and passion 
of an active external moxer and a passive capacity 
lo be moved. W'lienee ihe delinilion of motion that 
Descartes '•' was later lo deride, "motus est actus 
entis in potenlia prout quod in potentia." 

We have seen above that the "motor essentialis" 
for terrestial change is the "virtus coeli." Thus the 
enacting source of all motion and change is the 
heavens and the heavenly powers, while the earth 
and its inhabitants becomes the focus or passive 
recipient of these actions. In this manner the scholastic 
restated in philosophical terms the drama of an 
earth-centered universe. 

Although change or motion is normally elTected 
through the above mentioned causal hierarchy, it is 
not always necessary that actualization pass from the 
First Cause clown through each step of the hierarchy 
to terminate in the Cjualities of the individual being. 
Some of the steps could be by-passed: for instance 
man's body is under the direct influence of the 
celestial bodies, his intellect under that of the angels 
and his will under God.™ Another example of effects 
not produced through the tangible prime qualities 
is that of the tide-producing influence of the moon 
on the waters of the ocean or the powers of the load- 
stone over iron. Such causal relations, where some 
members of the normal causal chnin have been 
circumvented, are called occult.-' 

While St. Thomas referred to the loadstone in a 
number of places as something whose nature and 
occult properties are well known, it was always as 
an example or as a tangential reference. One does 
not find a systematic treatment of the loadstone in 
St. Thomas, but there are enough references to 

" Rc-ne Descartes, Oeiivres, Charles Adam and Paul Tannery, 
Paris, 1897-1910, vol. 2, p. 597 (letter to Mersenne, 16 Oct., 
1639), and vol. 11 (Le Monde), p. 39. The original defini- 
tion can be found in Ari.stotlc, Physics, tran.slated by P. H. 
Wickstcad and F. M. Oornford, Loeb Cla.ssical Library, 
London, 1934, 201alO. .\cjuinas rephrases the definition as 
"Molus est aclus exislenlis in potenlia secundum quod Imius modi." 
Sec St. Thomas Aquinas, Opera omnia, Antwerp, 1612, vol. 2, 
Physicorum Aristotelis exposilio, lib. 3, lect. 2, cap. a, p. 29. 

™ St. Thomas Aquinas, op. cit. (footnote 1 9), vol. 9, Summa 
contra gentiles, lib. 3, cap. 92 (Quo modo dicitur aliquis bene 
fortunatus et quo modo adjuvalur homo ex superioribus causis), 
p. 343. 

" St. Thomas Aquinas, op. cil. (footnote 19), vol. 17 Opus- 
ctila, De operationihus occultis naturae ad queindam militem uUramon- 
tem, pp. 213-224 

provide a fairly explicit statement of what he con- 
sidered to be the nature of the magnet. 

In one of his earliest writings, St. Thomas argued 
that the magnet attracts iron because this is a necessary 
consequence of its nature. ■• 

Respondeo dicendum. t[iiod omnibus reljus naturaliler 
insunt quacdam principia. quibus non solum operationes 
proprias cfficere possunt, sed quibus etiam eas convenientcs 
liiii suo rcddanl, sive sint artiones quae consequantur rem 
aliquam ex nalura sui generis, sive consequantur ex nalura 
speciei, ut magncti compelit fcni deorsum ex nalura sui 
generis, et attrahere ferrum ex natura speciei. Sicut aulem 
ill rebus agenlibus ex necessitate naturae sunt principia 
actionum ipsae formae, a ciuibus operationes proprie prodc- 
unl convenientes fini. . . . 

Due to its generic form, the loadstone is subject to 
natural motion of place of up and down. However, 
the "virtus" of it.s specific form enabled it to produce 
another kind of motion — it could draw iron to itself. 

Normally the "virtus" of a substance is limited to 
those contact effects that could be produced by the 
form operating through the active qualities of one 
substance, on the relatively passive qualities of 
another. St. Thomas asserted the loadstone to be 
one of these minerals, the occult powers of whose 
form goes beyond those of the prime qualities.'^' 

I'orma enim elenienli non habcl aliquam operationcm 
nisi quae fit per qualitates aclivas et passivas, quae sunt 
disposiiiones materiae corporalis. I'orma autem corporis 
mineralis habet aliquam operalionem e.xcedentem qualitates 
aclivas el passivas, quae consequilur speciem ex influentia 
corporis coelestis, ut quod magnes attrahit ferrum, et quod 
saphirus curat apostema. 

That this occult power of the loadstone is a result 
of the direct influence of the "virtus coeli" was 

-- St. Thomas .Aquinas, op. cil. (footnote 19), vol 7, .Scriplum 
in quarlum lilirum senlenliarum magisiri Petri Lomhaidi, lib. 4, disq. 
33 (De diversis coniugii legibus), art. 1 (Utrum habere phires 
uxores sit contra legem naturae), p. 168. The same statement 
occurs in one of his most mature works, op. c'l. vol. 20, Summa 
Iheologica, pars 3 (supplementum), quaestio 65 (De pliiralitate 
uxorum in quinque articulos divisa), art. 1 (L"trum habere 
plures uxores sit contra legem naturae), p. 107. 

= > St. Thomas Aquinas, op. cil. (footnote 19), vol. 8, Qtiaestio 
unica: de spinlualthus creaturis, art. 2 (Utrum substantia spiri- 
tualis possit uniri corpori), p. 404. See also vol. 9, Summa 
contra gentiles, lib. 3, cap. 92 (Quomodo dicitur aliquis bene 
fortunatus, et quomodo adjuvalur homo ex superioribus causis), 
p. 344; and vol. 17, Opuscula, De operalionibus occultis naturae ad 
queindam militem ullramonlrm. pp. 213-214. 



expountlcd at Qjrcalcr Icntflh in his treatise on the 

Quod quidciii ex piopiiis roniiaruin opcrationibiis 
perpcndi potest. I'ormac enim clcmentoiuin, quae sim 
infimac et maleiiae propinquissimc, non habent aliquain 
operationem c.xcedentcin qualitates activas ct passivas, ui 
raium cl densum, et aliae huiusmodi, qui videnlur esse 
materiae dispositiones. .Super has autcni sunt formae 
mistorum quae praetcr praediclas operationcs, habeiit 
aliquam operationem consequcntcm speciem, quam fortiun- 
tur ex corporibus coelestibus; sicut quod magnes attrahit 
ferruin non propter calorem aul higiis. aut ahquid huius- 
modi; sed ex quadam participalione virtulis coelestis. 
Super has autem formas sint iterum animac plantarum, 
quae habent simihtudincm non solum ad ipsa corpora 
coelestia, sed ad motores corporum coelesiium. inquanluiu 
sunt principia cuiusdam molus, quibusdam seipsa movenli- 
bus. .Super has autem ulterius sunt animae brutorum, 
quae similitudinem iam habent ad substanliam moventem 
coelestia corpora, non solum in operationc qua movent 
corpora, sed etiam in hoc quod in seipsis cognoseitivae sum, 
licet brutorum cognilio sit maleriahuni lantiun et ma- 
terialiter. . . . 

St. Thomas placed the form of the mat!;net and its 
powers in the hierarchy of forms intermediate be- 
tween the forms of the inanimate world and the 
forms of the organic world with its hierarchy of plant, 
animal and rational souls. The form of the loadstone 
is then superior to that of iron, which can only act 
throus^h its active and passive qualities, but inferior 
to the plant soul, that has the powers of growth from 
the "virtus cocli." This is similar to Galen's com- 
parison of the magnet's powers to that of the nutritive 
powers of organic bodies. 

In his commentary on .Aristotle's P/ijsics, St. Thomas 
explained how iron is moved to the magnet. It is 
moved by some quality imjiarted to the iron by 
the magnet.-' 

lUud ergo irahere diciuir. quod movel aheruni ad 
seipsum. Movere autem aliquid secundum locum ad 
seipsum contingit tripliciler. Uno modo sicul finis movel; 
unde et finis dicitur trahcre, secundum illud poetate: 
"trahit sua quemque volufjtas"' : et hoc modo potest dici quod 

-• St. Thomas .\quinas, of) cit. (footnote 19), vol. 8, Qimalin 
unica: de anima, art. 1 (Utrum anima humana possit esse 
forma et hoc aliquid), p. 437. See also vol. 8, Qiiaeslio: Dr 
veritate, quaestio 5 (Dc providentia), art. 10 (Utrum human! 
actus a divina providentia gubcrnentur mcdiis corporibus 
coelestibus), p. 678. 

" St. Thomas Aquina.s, op. cil. (footnote 19), vol. 2, Physi- 
corum Arislotelis rxpositio, lib. 7, lect. 3, cap. g (Probatur in 
motu locali quod movens et motum oportct esse simul), p. 97 
(quoted in Gilbert, M: p. 104). 

locus trahit id, quod naturaliter movclur ad locum. Alio 
modo potest dici aliquid trahere, quia movel illud ad 
seipsum alterando aliqualiter, ex qua altcralionc contingit 
f|Uod alteralum moveatur secundum locum: et hoc modo 
magnes dicitur trahcre ferruiti. .Sicul enim generans 
niovet gravia et levia, inquanlum dat eis formarum per 
quam movenlur ad locum, ita el magnes dat alicjuam 
qualitatem ferro, per quam movctur ad ipsum. Et quod 
hoc sit verum palct ex Iribus. Primo c|uidem quia magnes 
non trahit ferrum ex quacumque disiantia, sed ex propin- 
(|Uo; si autem ferruin moveretur ad magnetein solum sicul 
ad linem, sicut grave ad suum locum, ex qualibet disiantia 
tenderet ad ipsum. .Secundo, quia, si magnes aliis pcr- 
ungatur, ferrum atlrahere non potest; cjuasi aliis vim 
alterativam i|)sius impedientibus, aut eiiam in conirarium 
alterantibus. Tertio, quia ad hoc quod magnes attrahat 
ferrum, oporlet prius ferruin liniri cum magnete. ma.\ime 
si magnes sit parvus; quasi ex magnete aliquam virtulcm 
ferrum accipial ut ad eum moveatur. Sic igitur magnes 
attrahit ferrum non solum sicul finis, sed etiam sicul movens 
et allerans. Tertio modo dicitur alic|uid atlrahere, quia 
movel ad seipsum motu locali lantum. El sic definilur hie 
traclio, prout unum corpus trahit alterum, ita quod irahcns 
simul moveatur cum eo quod trahitur. 

As the "generans" of terrestrial change moves what 
is light and heavy to another place by implanting 
a new form in a substance, so the magnet moves the 
iron by impressing upon it the quality by which it 
is moved. By virtue of the new quality, the iron is 
not in its natural place and moves accordingly. 
.St. Thomas proved that the loadstone acts as a 
secondary "generans" in three ways: (1) the load- 
stone produces an effect not from any distance 
but only from a nearby position (showing that this 
motion is due to more than place alone), (2) rubbing 
the loadstone with garlic acts as if it impedes or 
alters the "virtus magnetis," and (3) the iron must 
be properly aligned with respect to the loadstone in 
order to be moved, especially if the loadstone is small. 
I'hus the iron is moved by the magnet not only to a 
place, but also by changing and altering it: one has 
not only the change of locomotion but that of altera- 
tion. Moreover the source of this alteration in ihe 
iron is not the heavens but the loadstone. Accordingly 
the loadstone could cause change in another sub- 
stance because it could influence the nature of the 
other substance. 

.\bout the time that St, Thomas was writing his 
letter De operalionihus occuUis naluraf to a certain 
knight, Pctrus Peregrinus was writing from a military 
camp a letter in wliicli he showed how certain rela- 
ii\elv new eflVcts could be produced by the loadstone. 



He was more interested in what he could do with 
the magnet than in explaining these efTects. However, 
he discussed it at sufhcient length for one to find that 
his explanation of magnetic phenomena was basically 
similar to that of his contemporary, St. Thomas. 

Peregrinus based his discussion of the loadstone 
upon its nature and analyzed magnetic phenomena 
in terms of the change of alteration. In magnetic 
attraction, the nature of the iron is altered by having 
a new cjuality impressed upon it,-" and the loadstone 
is the agent that makes the iron the same species as 
the stone. ^' 

. . . Oportet enim quod illud quod lam conversum est ex 
duobus in unum, sit in cadcm specie cum agente; quod 
non esset, si natura istud impo.ssible cligerct. 

This impressed similarity to the agent, Peregrinus 
realized, is not a pole of the same polarity but one 
opposite to that of the inducing pole. To produce 
this effect, the \irtue of the stronger agent dominates 
the weaker patient and impresses the virtue of the 
stronger on the weaker so that they are made similar.** 

... In cuius attractionc, lapis foriioris vinulis agens est; 
debilioris vero patiens. 

.\ further instance of alteration occurs in the reversal 
of polarity of magnetized iron when one brings two 
similar poles together. Again, the stronger agent 
dominates the weaker patient and the iron is left 
with a similarity to the last agent.-* 

. . . Causa huis est imprcssio uliimi agcniis. confuiideiuis et 
alterantis virtutem primi. 

In this assimilation of the agent to the patient, 
another effect is produced: the agent not only desires 
to assimilate the patient to itself, but to unite with 
it to become one and the same. Speaking of the 
motion to come together, he says: '" 

Huius aulem rei causam per hanc viam fieri exislimo: 
agens cnim intendit suum patiens non solum sibi assimilare, 
sed unirc, ut ex agente et patiente fiat unum, per numerum. 
Et hoc potes e.xperiri in isto lapidc mirabili in hunc modum. 
. . . Agens ergo, ut vides experimenlo, inlendit suum paciens 
sibi unirc; hoc autem fit rationc similiiudinis inter ea. 

^' Ilcllmann, op. cit. (footnote 6), Peregrinus, pt. 1, ch. 8. 
The magnet attracts the iron ".secundum naturalem appetitum 
lapidis . . . sine resistentia." There is no natural resistcnce 
to this motion since it is no longer contrary to the nature of 
the iron. The nature of the iron has changed. 

2' Ibid., pt. 1, ch. 9. 

28 Ibid., pt. 1, ch. 9. 

2» Ibid., pt. 1, ch. 8. 

^ Ibid., pt, 1, ch. 9. 

Oportet ergo . . . virtute altractionis. fiat una linea, ex 
agente et patiente, secundum hunc ordinem . . . 

The nature cjf the magnet, as an active cause, tends 
to enact, and since it acts in the best manner in which 
it is able, it acts so as to preserve the similarities of 
opposite poles." 

Natura autem, que lendcl ad esse, agit meliori modo quo 
potest, eligit primum ordinem actionis, in qucj melius 
salvatur idemiilitas, quani in sccundo . . . 

Tims unlike poles tend to come together when a 
dissected magnet is reassembled. 

Like St. Thomas, Peregrinus argued that the magnet 
receives its powers from the heavens. But he further 
specified this by declaring that different virtues from 
the different parts of the heavens flow into their 
counterpart in the loadstone — from the poles of the 
heavens the \irtue flows into the poles of the magnet,^^ 

Praeterea cum ferrum, vel lapis, vertatur tam ad partem 
meridionalem cjuam ad partem septemtrionalem . . . 
existima cogimur, non solum a partem septemtrionali, 
verum etiam a meridionali virtutem influi in polos lapidis, 
magis quam a locis minere . . . Omnes autem orbes 
meridian! in polls mundi concurrunt; quare, a polls mundi, 
poll magnetis virtutem recipiunt. Et ex hoc apparet 
manifeste quod non ad slellam iiauticam movetur, cum 
ibi non concurrant orbes mcridiani, sed in polls; Stella enim 
nautica, extra orbem meridianum cuiuslibet rcgionis semper 
invenitur, nisi bis, in completa firmanenti revolutionc. Ex 
hiis ergo manifestum est quod a partibus cell, partes 
magnetis virtutem recipiunt. 

and similarly for the other parts of the heavens and 
the other parts of the loadstone.''' 

Ceteras autem partes lapidis nierito estimarc potes, 
influcntiam a reliquis cell partibus retinere, ut non sic 
solum polos lapidis a polls mundi, sed totum lapidem a toto 
celo, recipere influcntiam et virtutem, estimes. 

Physical proof for sucii influences was adduced by 
Peregrinus from the motions of the loadstone. That 
the poles of the loadstone receive their \irtue from 
the poles of the heavens follows experimentally from 
north-south alignment of a loadstone. That not 
only the poles but the entire loadstone receives power 
from corresponding portions of the heavens follows 
from the fact that a spherical loadstone, when 
"properly balanced," would follow the motion of 
the heavens.'* 

'' Ihid., pt. 1, ch. 9. See also footnote 27. 

32 Ibid., pt. 1, ch. 10. See also ch. 4. 

23 Ibid., pt. 1, ch. 10. See also ch. 4. 

3* Ibid., pt. 1, ch. 10. 



Quod tibi tali modo consulo cxpcrirc: . . . Et si tunc 
lapis moveatur secundum ccli motum, gaudeas tc esse 
assecutum secretum mirabilc; si vero non, imperilie tue, 
potiusquam nature, defectus imputelur. In hoc autcm 
situ, scu modo positionis, virtutes lapidis huius estimo 
conservari proprie, ct in reliquis sitibus ccli virtutein eius 
obsecaii, seu cbctari, potiusquam conservari puto. Per 
hoc autem instrumentum excusaberis ab omni horologio; 
nam per ipsum scire poteris Ascensus in quacumquc hora 
voiueris, et omnes alias ccli dispositiones, quas querunt 

As the heavens move eternally, so the spherical load- 
stone must be a "perpetuum mobile". 

Another of the scholars whose explanation of the 
loadstone Gilbert noted with approval was Cardinal 
Nicholas of Cusa.'^ The latter's references to it were 
not as direct as those of St. Thomas, but he did use it 
as an image .several times to provide a microcosmic 
example of the relation of God to his creation. From 
this one can infer that he explained the preternatural 
motion of the magnet and the iron by impressed 
qualities, the heavens being the agent for the load- 
stone, and the loadstone, the agent for iron. 

In the Idiota de sapientia the Cardinal used the 
image of the magnet and the iron to provide a con- 
crete instance of his "coincidentia oppositorum," to 
illustrate how eternal wisdom, in the Neoplatonic 
sense, could, at the same lime, be principle or cause of 
being, its complement and also its goal.^^ 

.Si igitur in omni dcsiderio vitae intellectualis attendcres, 
a quo est intellectus, per quod movetur et ad quod, in tc 
comperires dulcedinem sapientiae aeternae illam esse, quae 
tibi facit desiderium tuum ita dulce et delectabile, ut in 
inerrabili aff'ectu feraris ad eius comprehensionem tanquam 
ad immortalitatem vitae tue, quasi ad ferrum et magnetem 
attendas. Habet enim ferrum in magnete quoddain sui 
effluxus principium; et dum magnes per sui praesentiam 
excitat ferrum grave el ponderosum, ferrum mirabili 
dcsiderio fertur etiam supra motum naturae, quo secundum 
gravitatem deorsum tendere debet, et sursum movetur 
se in sue principio uniendo. Nisi enim in ferro es.sct 
quaedam praeguslatio naturalis ipsius magnetis, non 
moverelur plus ad magnclem r|uam ad aliuin lapidcm: et 

" However, lie may not always have approved of him. .See 
M:74; "Overinquisitive theoloi;ians, too, seek to lie;ht up God's 
mysteries and things beyond man's understanding by means 
of the loadstone and amber." 

2' Nicholas of Cusa (Nicolaus Cusancus), Xicotaus von Cues, 
Texte seiner philosophischm Schriflen, ed. A. Petzelt, Stuttgart, 
1949, bk. 1, Idiola de sapientia, p. 306 (quoted in Gilbert, M:104). 
It is interesting that Cusa held that the loadstone has an in- 
clination to iron, as well as the converse! 

nisi in lapide esset major inclinatio ad ferrum quam cuprum, 
non esset ilia attractio. Habet igitur spiritus nosier 
intellectualis ab aeterna sapientia principium sic intcl- 
lectualiter essendi, quod esse est conformius sapicntac 
quam aliud non intellcctualc. Hinc irraditio seu immissio 
in sanctam animam est motus desidcriosus in cxcitationc. 

By virtue of the principle that flows from the magnet 
to the iron — which principle is potentially in the iron, 
for the iron already has a foretaste for it — the excited 
iron could transcend its gravid nature and be pre- 
ternaturally moved to unite with its principle. Re- 
ciprocally, the loadstone has a greater attraction to 
the iron than to other things. Just as the power of 
attraction comes from the loadstone, so the Deity is 
the source of our life. Just as the principle implanted 
in the magnet moves the iron against its heavy nature, 
so the Deity raises us above our brutish nature so 
that we may fulfill our life. As the iron moves to the 
loadstone, so we move to the Deity as to the goal 
and end of our life. 

\n De pace fidei, Cusa '" again used the iron and 
magnet as an example of motion contrary to and 
transcending nature. He explained this supernatural 
motion as being due to the similarity between the 
nature of the iron and the magnet, and this in turn 
is analogous to the similarity between human spiritual 
nature and divine spiritual nature. As the iron can 
move upward to the loadstone because both have 
similar natures, so man can transcend his own nature 
and move towards God when his potential similitude 
to God is realized. Another image used by Cusa was 
the comparison of Christ to the magnetic needle that 
takes its power from the hea\'ens and shows man 
his way.^* 

The Elizabethan Englishman Robert Norman also 
turned to the Deity to explain the wonderful effects 
of the loadstone.'''' 

Now therefore . . . divers have whetted their wits, 
yea, and dulled them, as I have mine, and yet in the end 
have been constrained to fly to the cornerstone: I mean 
God: who . . . hath given N'irtue and power to tliis Stone 

'■ Cusa, Cusa Schujien, vol. 8, De pace fidei, translated by 
L. Mohler, Leipzig, 1943, ch. 12, p. 127. 

'" Cusa, Exercitaliones, ch. 7, 563 and 566, quoted in, F. .■\. 
Scharpff, Des Cardinals und Bischofs Xicolaus \'on Cusa M'lchtigsle 
Schrijien in Deulscher Ueberselzung, Freiburg, 1862, p. 435. Sec also 
Martin Billinger, Das Philosophischt in Den Excitalionen Des 
Nicolaus Von Cues, Heidelberg, 1938, and Cusa Schrijien (sec 
footnote 37), vol. 8, p. 209, note 105. Gilbert (M: p. 223) 
called the compass "the finger of God." 

»» Hellmann, op. cit. (footnote 6), Norman, bk. 1 , ch. 8. 



... to show one certain point, by liis own nature and 
appetite . . . and by the same vertuc, the Needle is turned 
upon his own Center. I mean the Center of his Circular 
and invisible \'ertue . . . .And surely I am of opinion, 
that if this would be found in a Sphcricall form, extending 
round about the Stone in Great Compass, and the dead body 
Stone in the middle thcrof: Whose center is the center of 
his aforesaid \'ertuc. .And this I have partly proved, 
and made visible to be seen in the same manner, and God 
sparing me life, I will herein make further Experience. 

Again, one can infer that the hea\ens impart a 
guidina; principle to the iron which acts under the 
inlhience of this Superior 

One of the points made in St. Thomas' argument 
on motion due to the loadstone was that there is a 
limit to the "virtus" of the loadstone, but he did not 
specify the nature of it. Norman refined the Thomist 
concept of a bound by making it spherical in forin, 
foreshadowing Gilbert's "orbis virtutis." 

Gilbert's philosophy of nature does not move far 
from scholastic philosophy, except away from it in 
logical consistency. As the concern of Aristotle and 
of St. Thomas was to understand being and change 
by determining the nature of things, so Gilbert 
sought to write a logos of the physis, or nature, of the 
loadstone — a physiology.'"' This physiology was 
not formally arranged into definitions obtained by 
induction from experience, but nevertheless there 
was the same search for the quiddity of the loadstone. 
Once one knew this nature then all the properties 
of the loadstone could be understood. 

Gilbert described the nature of the loadstone in the 
terms of being that were current with his scholarly 
contemporaries. This was the same ontology that 
scholasticism had taught for centuries — the doctrine 
of form and matter that we have already found in 
St. Thomas and Nicholas of Cusa. Thus we find 
Richard Hooker *' remarking that form gives being 
and that "form in other creatures is a thing propor- 
tionable unto the soul in living creatures." I'raiicis 
Bacon, ^'■' in speaking of the relations between causes 
and the kinds of philosophy, said: "Physics is the 
science that deals with eflicicnt and material causes 

while Metaphysics deals with formal and final" John Donne ■" expressed the problem of 
scholastic philosophy succinctly: 

This twilight of two yeares. not past or next. 

Some emljleme is of me, . . . 
... of stufl'c and forme perplext, 

Whose what and where, in disputation is . . . 

As we shall .see, Gilbert continued in the same tradi- 
tion, hut his interpretation of form and Ibriiial cause 
was much more anthropomorphic than that of his 

Gilbert began his Dr rriagnele by cxpoundint; the 
natural history of that portion of the earth with 
which we are familiar.'" 

Having declared the origin and nature of the loadstone, 
we hold it needful first to give the history of iron also . . . 
before we come to the explication of difficulties connected 
with the loadstone . . . we shall better understand what 
iron is when we shall have developed . . . what are the 
causes and the matter of metals . . . 

His treatment of the origin of minerals and rocks 
agreed in the main with that of .\ristotle,^'^ but he 
departed somewhat from the peripatetic doctrine of 
the four elements of fire, air, water, and earth. ^^ 
Instead, he replaced them by a pair of elements.*' 
(If the rejection of the four Aristotelian elements were 
clearer, one might consider this a part of his rejection 
of the geocentric universe but he did not define his 
position suflicientlv.)** 

According to Gilbert the primaiy source of matter 
is the interior of the earth, where exhalations and 
"spiritus" arise from the bowels of the earth and 
condense in the earth's veins.*' If the condensations, 
or humors, are hoinogeneous, thev constitute the 

'"M: p. 14. 

" Richard Hooker. 0/ the laws of ecclesiastical polity, bk. 1, 
ch. 3, sect. 4 {Works, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1865, vol. 1, 
p. 157) 

*^ Francis Bacon, De augmentis scientiarum, bk. 3, ch. 4, in Works, 
cd. J. Spcdding, R. L. Elli.s, and D. D. Heath, Boston, n.d. 
(1900?), vol. 2, p. 267. 

^^ 1 he poems of John Dontie, cd. H. J. C. Grierson, London, 
Oxford University Press, 1933, p. 175 ("To the Countesse of 
Bedford, On New Yeares Day"). 

" M: pp. 33, 34. 

*' M: pp. 34, 35. Aristotle, Works, ed. \V. U. Ross, Oxford, 
1908-1952, vol. 2, De generatione et corruptione, translated by 
H. H. Joachim, 1930, vol. 3, Meteorologica, translated by 
E. W. Webster, 1931. 

" M: pp. 34, 35, 64, 65, 69, 81. Dr. H. Guerlac has kindly 
brought to my attention the similarity between the explanation 
given in Gilbert and that gi\'en in the Meteorologica, bk. 3, ch. 6 
p. 378. 

*" M: p. 83. 

*' A statement of the relation between Aristotle's four ele- 
ments and place can be found in Maier, op. cit. (footnote 17), 
pp. 143-182. 

" M: pp. 21, 34, 35, 36, 45. 



"materia prima" of metals.'*' From this "materia 
prima," various metals may be produced," according 
to the particular humor and the specificating nature 
of the place of condensation. '■' The purest condensa- 
tion is iron: "In iron is earth in its true and genuine 
nature.""^ In other metals, we have instead of earth, 
"condensed and fixed salts, which are efflorescences 
of the earth." " If the conden.sed exhalation is 
mixed in the vein with forci;?n earths already present, 
it forms ores that must be smelted to free the original 
metal from dross by fire.^* If these exhalations should 
happen to pass into the open air, instead of being 
condensed in the earth, they may return to the earth 
in a (meteoric) shower of iron.^' 

Gilbert was indeed wriiina; a new physiolosjv, both 
in the ancient sense of the word and the modern. 
The process of the formation of metals had many 
biological overtones, for it was a kind of metallic 
epigene.sis.^" "Within the globe are hidden the prin- 
ciples of metals and stones, as at the earth's surface 
are hidden the principles of herbs and plants."^ In 
ail cases, the "spiritus" acts as semen and blood that 
inform and feed the proper womb in the generation 
of animals.™ "The brother uterine of iron,"*" the 
loadstone, is formed in this manner. .Xs the embryo 
of a certain species is the result of the specificating 
nature of the womb in which the generic seed has 
been placed, so the kind of metal is the result of a 
certain humor condensing in a particular \ein in the 
body of the earth. 

Gilbert developed this biological analogy further 
by ascribing to metals a process of decay after reaching 

^ M: pp. 35, 36, 38, 69; sec, however, pp. 42 43: "Iron ore, 
therefore, as also manufactured iron. Is a metal slightly different 
from the homogenic telluric body because of the metallic 
humor it has imbibed . . ." 

^1 M: pp. 19, 34, 36, 37, 42, 69. 

" M: pp. 35, 36, 37, 38. 

^ M: pp. 38, 63, 69, 84; on p. 34 he says that iron is "more 
truly the child of the earth than any other metal"; it is the 
hardest because of "the strong concretion of the more earthy 

5* M: pp. 21, 35, 37, 38. 

" M: pp. 35, 63. 

" M: pp. 45, 46. 

" Gilbert's terminology strongly suggests that he was familiar 
with alchemical literature, as well as that of medical chemistry. 
He has been credited as being highly skilled in chemistry. See 
Sir Walter Langdon-Brown, "William Gilbert: his place in 
the medical world," .Valure, vol. 154, pp. 136-139, 1944. 

58 Ibid., p. 37. 

»» M: pp. 35, 36, 53, 59. Sec also Galen, op. cit. (footnote 1 5) 
bk 2, ch. 3. 

«>M: pp. 16, 59. 

maturity. Once these solid materials have been 
formed, they will degenerate protected, forming 
earths of various kinds as a result." The "rind of the 
earth"'- is produced by this process of growth and 
decay. If these earths are soaked with humors, 
transparent materials are formed." 

As we shall sec below, the ultimate cause of this 
internal and superficial life is the motion of the earth, 
which animation is the expression of the magnetic 
soul of this sphere."' .As the life of animals results 
from the constant working of the heart and arteries," 
-SO the daily motion of the earth results in a constant 
generation of mineral life within the earth. In con- 
trast to .\ristode's ** making the motion of the 
heavens the cause of continuous change, Gilljert 
made that of the earth the remote cause.'" However, 
unlike the constant cyclical transmutation of sub- 
stances in Aristotle, there is only generation and 

Gilbert iTiade a number of successive generaliza- 
tions in order to arrive at the induction that the form 
of the loadstone is a microcosmic "anima" of that 
of the earth. "^ After comparing the properties of the 
loadstone and of iron, his first step in this induction 
was that the two materials, found everywhere,'' are 
consanguineous:'* "These two associated bodies 
possess the true, strict form of one species, thousrh 
because of the outwardly different aspect and the 
inequality of the selfsame innate potency, they have 
hitherto been held to be different . . ." Good iron 
and good loadstone are more similar than a good and 
a poor loadstone, or a good and a poor iron ore."' 
Moreover, they have the same potency."- for the 
innate potency of one can be pas.sed to the other:"' 
"The stronger invigorates the weaker, not as if it 
imparted of its own substances or parted with aught 

«' M: pp. 20, 21, 32, 61, 63, 66, 70. 

•2 M: p. 59. 

a M: p. 84. 

•* M: pp. 310, 311, 312. 

" M: p. 338. \ somewhat different opinion, although not 
necessarily inconsistent is expressed on p. 66, where he says 
the surface is due to the action of the atmosphere, the waters, 
and the radiations and other influences of heavenly bodies. 

"• .Xristotle, op. cil. (footnote 45), Dt gennaliune <l coirupliont, 
bk. 2, ch. 10. 

«■• M: pp. 311, 334, 338. 

*- M: pp. xlvii, 309, 328. 

»' M: pp. 18, 20, 44, 46, 69. 

■" M: pp. 59, 61, 63. 

■' M: pp. 60, 63. 

■- M: p. 110. 

^ M: pp. 60, 61. 

471274—5!) 10 


of its own strength, nor as if it injfclcci iniu llu- cthi-r 
any physical substance; hut rather the dormant 
power of the one is awakened 1)\ (he other's without 
expenditure." In addition, tiie potency can be 
passed only to the other."' 1-inally they both ha\e 
the same history: 

We see both the finest magnet and iron ore visited as it 
were by the same ills and, acting in the same way 
and with the same indications, preserved by the same 
remedies and protective measures, and so retaining their 
properties . . . they are both impaired by the action 
of acrid iicinids as though by poison"'' . . . each is saved from 
impairment by being kept in the scrapings of the other. 
[So] . . . form, essence and appearance are one. " 

Any difference between the loadstone proper and 
the iron proper is due to a difference in the actual 
power of the magnetic \ irtue: " "Weak loadstones are 
those disfigured witti dross metallic humors and with 
foreign earth admi.xiures, [hence one may conclude] 
they are further removed from the mother earth and 
are more degenerate.'' 

(.ilbert's second induction was that they are ''true 
and intimate parts of the globe,'' '" that is, that they 
are piece of the "materia prima" of all we see about 
us. For they "seem to contain within themselves 
the potency of the earth's core and of its inmost 
viscera.'' "" Whence, in Gilbert's philosophy, the 
earthy matter of the elements was not passive or 
inert *° as it was in .Aristotle's, but already had the 
magnetic powers of loadstone. Being endowed with 
properties, it was, in peripatetic terms, a simple body. 

If these pieces of earth i3ro]X'r, before decay, are 
loadstones, then one may pass to the next induction 
that the earth itself is a loadstone.'*' Conversely, a 
terrella has all the properties of the earth: *" "Every 
separate fragment of the earth exhibits in indubitable 
experiments the whole impetus of magnetic matter; 
in its various inovements it follows the terrestial globe 
and the common princi]:)le of motion."*^ 

'< M: p. 62. 

" M: p. 63. 

'« M: p. 60. 

" M: pp. 19, 21, 43, 53, 61, 63, 184. 

™ M: p. 61. 

'» M: pp. 66, 67. 

*" M: p. 69. Gilbert is confusing Aristotelian matter and an 
element. He includes cold and dry, wiili formless and inert! 
Sec also Maier, op. cit. (footnote 17). 

«' M: p. 63; bk. 1, ch. 17. 

82 M: pp. 67, 181-183, 235-240, 281-289, 313-314. 

'^ M: p. 71. See also pp. 314 and 331. It is not clear, at 
this point, whether he believed a "properly balanced" terrella 
would be a perpetuum mobile. 

The next induction that Gilbert made was that as 
the magnet possesses vcrticity and turns towards 
the poles, so the loadstone-earth possesses a verticity 
and turns on an axis fixed in direction.*'' He could 
now discuss the motions of a loadstone in general, in 
terms of its nature, just as an .\ristotelian di.scussed the 
motion of the elements in terms of their nature. 

But before reaching this point in his argument, 
Gilbert digressed to classify the difierenl kinds of 
attractions and motions which the elements produce. 
In partii iilar, he distinguished electric attraction froin 
magnetic coition, and pointed out the main features 
of electrical attraction. Since the resultant motions 
were different, the essential natures of electric and 
magnetic substances had to cliH'er. 

Ciilbert introduced his treatment of motion by dis- 
cussing the attraction of amber. .Ml sufficiently 
light solids "^ and even liquids,^" but not fiame or air *' 
are attracted by rubbed amber. Heat from friction,** 
but not from alien sources like the sun *" or the flame,*' 
produce this "affection." By the use of a detector 
modeled after the magnetic needle, which we would 
call an electroscope but which he called a "versor- 
ium," " Gilbert was able to extend the list of sub- 
stances that attract like amber. '^ These Gilbert called 
"electricae."' "^ 

Possibly as a result of testing experimentally state- 
ments like that of St. Thomas, on the effect of garlic 
on a loadstone, Gilbert discovered that the inter- 
position of even the slightest material (except a fluid 
like olive oil) would screen the attraction of elec- 
trics.'^ Hence the attraction is due to a material 
cause, and, since it is invisible, it is due to an efllu- 
vium.^'' It inust be much rarer than air,''*" for if its 

*< M: pp. 68, 70-71, 97, 129, 179-180, 311, 315, 317-335 
Gilbert implied (M: p. 166), that a terrella does not rotate as 
Percgrinus said, due to resistance (M: p. 326), or due to the 
mutual nature of coition (M: p. 166); or even to the rotation 
of the earth (M: p. 332). However (M: p. 129), he also men- 
tioned that a terrella would revolve by itself! 

*5 M: pp. 78, 82, 84, 86. 

M M: pp. 78, 89, 91. 

8' M: pp. 89, 95. 

88 M: pp. 83, 86. 

8' M: pp. 81, 86, 87. 

«» M: pp. 80, 81, 86, 87. 

»' M: p. 79. 

M M: pp. 77-78, 79. 

»' M: p. 78. The d<-finition Gilbert gave of an electric in the 
glossary at the beginning of his treatise was not an experimental 
one: "Electricae, quae attrahunt eadem ratione ul electrum." 

9< M: pp. 86, 91, 135. « M: pp. 96, 135. 

«« M: p. 89. 



density were that of air or greater, it would repel 
rather than attract."^ 

The source of the eflluvia could be inferred from 
the properties of the electrics. Many but not all of 
the electrics are transparent, but all are firm and can 
lie polished."" Since they retain the appearance and 
properties of a fluid in a firm solid mass,"" Gilbert 
concluded that they derived their »rowth mostly 
from humors or were concretions of humors.'"" Hy 
friction, these humors arc released and produce 
electrical attraction.'"' 

This humoric source of the effluvia was substan- 
tiated by Gilbert in a number of ways. Electrics lose 
their power of electrical attraction upon being 
heated, and this is because the humor has been driven 
off.'"- Bodies that arc about equally constituted of 
earth and humor, or that are mostly earth, have 
been degraded and do not show electrical attrac- 
tion.'"^ Bodies like pearls and metals, since they are 
shiny and so must be made of humors, must also emit 
an effluvium upon being rubbed, but it is a thick and 
vaporous one without any attractive powers.'"* 
Damp weather and moist air can weaken or even 
prevent electrical attraction, for it impedes the efflux 
of the humor at the source and accordingly diminishes 
the attraction.'"' Charged bodies retain their powers 
longer in the sun than in the shade, for in the shade 
the effluvia are condensed more, and so obscure 

All these examples seemed to justify the hypothesis 
that the nature of electrics is such that material 
effluvia are emitted when electrics are rubbed, and 
that the effluvia are rarer than air. Gilbert realized 
that as yet he had not explained electrical attraction, 
only that the pull can be screened. The puU must be 
explained by contact forces,'"' as Aristotle '"* and 

«' M: pp. 90, 92, 95. 

<» M: pp. 83, 84, 85. 

^ M: p. 84. 

ii» M: pp. 84, 89. .Sec also .'\iistotlc, np. cil. (footnote 45), 
Meteorotogica^ bk. 4. 

'<" M: p. 90. 

102 M: pp. 84, 85. 

"« M: p. 84. 

'»< M: p. 90. See also p. 95. 

•»* M: pp. 78, 85-86, 91. (see particularly the heated amber 
experiment described on p. 86). 

'»6 M: p. 87. 

10' M: p. 92. 

'<« Aristotle, Physics, translated by P. H. VVickstced and F. 
M. Cornford, Loeb Classical Library, London, 1934, bk. 7, 
ch. 1, 242b25, 

Aquinas '"" had argued. .Accordingly, he declared, 
the eflfluvia, or '"spiritus," "° emitted take "hold of 
the bodies with which they unite, enfold them, as it 
were, in their arms, and bring them into union with 
the electrics." '" 

It can be seen how this uniting action is effected 
if objects floating on water arc considered, for solids 
can be drawn to solids through the medium of a 
fluid. "- A wet body touching another wet body 
not only attracts it, but moves it if the other body is 
small, "■' while wet bodies on the surface of the water 
attract other wet bodies. A wet object on the surface 
of the water seeks union with another wet object 
when the surface of the water rises between both: at 
once, "like drops of water, or bubbles on water, they 
come together.""'' On the other hand, "a dry body 
does not move toward a wet, nor a wet to a dry, but 
rather they seem to go away from one another.""' 
Moreover, a dry body does not move to the dry rim 
of the vessel while a wet one runs to a wet rim."* 

By means of the properties of such a fluid, Gilbert 
could explain the unordered coming-together that 
he called coacervation."' Different bodies have 
different eflluvia, and so one has coaccrvation of 
different materials. Thus, in Gilbert's philosophy 
air was the earth's effluvium and was responsible for 
the unordered motion of objects towards the earth."* 

The analogy between electric attraction and fluids 
is a most concrete one, yet lying beneath this image is 
a hypothesis that is difl^cult to fix into a mechanical 
system based upon contact forces. This is the assump- 
tion that under the proper conditions bodies tend 
to move together in order to participate in a more 

'™ St. Thomcis Aquinas, op. cil. (footnote 19), vol. 2, Physicorum 
Arislolelis exposilio, lib. 7, lect. 2 (In moventibus ct motis non potest 
procedi in infinitum, sed oportet devenirc ad aliquid priminn 
movens immobile), cap. d, p. 96. 

"» M: p. 94. 

1" M: p. 95. 

"2 M: p. 93. 

I" M: pp. 92, 93. 

"* M: p. 93. 

"* M: p. 94. 

>i» M: p. 94. 

i"M: p. 97. 

"9 M: p. 92 (sec also p. 339). Although Gilbert docs not make 
it explicit, this would solve the medieval problem of gravitation 
witliout resorting to a Ptolemaic univei-sc. In addition, since 
coaccrvation is electric, and electric forces can be screened, 
it should have been possible to reduce tl>c downward motion 
of a body by screening! 



complete unily."* The steps in electrical attraction 
were described as occurring on two different levels 
of abstraction: first one has physical contact through 
an effluvium or "spiritus" that connects the two 
objects physically. Then, as a result of this contact, 
the objects somehow sense '■" that a more intimate 
harmony is possible, and move accordingly. Gilbert 
called the motion that followed contact, attraction. 
However, this motion did not connote what we would 
call a force: ''' it did not correspond directly to a 
push or pull, hut it followed from what one might 
term the ap[)rehcnsion of the possibility of a more 
complete participation in a formal irnity. The physical 
unity due lo ihe "spiritus" was tiu' prelude to a 
formal organic unity, .so that humor is "rerum omnium 
unitore." Gilbert's jiosition can be best seen in 
the following: ''■ 

Spii'llus igitur egredicns ex corpora, quod ab humore 
aut succo aqueo concrcveral, corpus attrahenclum attingit, 
atlactuin attrahenti unilur; corpus peculiar! eftiuviorum 
radio conlinguum, ununi cffccit e.\ duobus: unita confluunt 
in conjunctissimam convcnientiam, quae attractio vulgo 
dicitur. Quae unitas iuxta Pythagorac opinionem rerum 
oninium principium est, per cuius participalioncm una- 
([uacciue res una dicitur. Quoniam enim nullo actio a 
materia potest nisi per contacluui. t-leclrica haer non 
videnlur tangcre, sed ul necesse eral demillitur aliquid ab 
uno ad aliud, quod proxime tangat, et eius incitationis 
principium sit. Corpora omnia uniimtur & quasi ferrumin- 
antur quodammodo humore . . . Electrica vero elfl via 
peculiaria, quae humoris Aisi subtilissima sunt materia, 
corpuscula allectant. Aer (commune effluvium tclluri 
& partes disjunclis unit, & tellus mediante acre ad se 
revocal corpora; alitcr quae in superioribus locis assent 
corpora, terram non ita avide appelerent. 

Electrica effluvia ab acre multum differunt, & ut aer 
telluris effluvium est, ita electrica suahabenl effluvia & 
pro|)ria; peculiaribus cffluviis siius euique; est singularis 
ad unitatem ductus, molus ad principiiun. fontem, & 
corpus effluvia emittcns. 

A similar hypothesis will reap])ear in his explanation 
of magnetic attraction. 

Following the tradition of the medieval schoolmen 
Gilbert started his examination of the nature of the 

'" M: pp. 91, 92: "This unity is, according to Pythagoras, the 
principle, through participation, in which a thing is said to be 
one" (see footnote.", 30 and 122). 

120 "Sense" is probal)ly too strong a term, and yet the change 
following contact is difTicuh to describe in Gilbert's phraseology 
without some such subjeetive term. See Gilbert's argument on 
the soul and organs of a loadstone, M: pp. 309-31. 'i. 

'2' M: pp. 112,113. 

'" Gilbert, De magnele. London, 1600, bk. 2, eh. 2, pp. 56-57. 

loadstone by pointing oiu the different kinds of 
motion due to a magnet, llie li\e kinds (other than 
up and down) are: '*^ 

(i) coilio (vulgo attractio. dicta) ad imilatem magneti- 
cam incitatio. 

(2) directio in polos telluris. ct telluris in mundi destinatos 

terminos verticitas et consistentia. 

(3) variatio, a meridiaiio deflexio. t|uem ukjIiuh nos 
depravaliun dicimus, 

(4) deeliiialio, infra horizonlem poli magiielici descensus. 

(5) motus circularis, seu revolutio. 

Of the five he initially listed, three are not basic 
ones. V'ariation and declination he later ex[)lained 
as due to irregularities of the suriace of the earlh, 
while direction or vcrticity is the ordering motion that 
])rececles coition. '"^ This leaves only coition and 
revolution as the basic motions. How these followed 
from ""the congregant nature of the loadstone can be 
seen when the effusion of forms has been considered."' 

Coition (he did not take up revoluti(}n at this 
point) diHered from that due to other attractions. 
There are two and onlv two kinds of bodies that 
can attract: electric and magnetic.'"'' Cjilbert relined 
his position further by arguing that one does not 
even have magnetic attraction'"'' but instead the 
mutual motion to unicjn that he called coition.'-'^ 
In electric attraction, one has an action-passion 
relation of cause and effect with an external agent 
and a passive recipient : \\ hile in magnetic coition, 
both bodies act and are acted upon, and both move 
together. '^*' Instead of an agent and a patient in 
coition,'"** one has "conactus." Ctoition, as the 
Latin origin of the term denoted, is always a con- 
certed action. ''" This can be seen from the motions 
of two loadstones lloating on water.'" The mutual 
motion in coition was one of the reasons for Gilbert's 
rejection of the perpetual motion machine of Pcre- 
grinus. '''^ 

Magnetic coition, unlike electric attraction, cannot 
be screened.''^' Hence it cannot be corporeal for it 

'2' Ihid., ch. 1, pp. 45-46. 

i-< M: pp. lit), 314. 

'-•■' M: pp. 82, 105, 170, 172, 217. 

i!« M: p. 98. 

I-'' M: pp. 100, 1 12, 1 13, 143, 148. It need luiidlv be pointed 
out that coitus is not an impersonal term. 

>2« M: p. 110. 

i» M: p. 1111. 

™ .VI: pp. 109, 115, 148, 149, 155, 166, 174. 

"1 M: pp. 110, 155. 

"2 M: pp. 166, 332. See also footnote 84. 

"' M: pp. 90, 106, 107, 108, 113, 132, 135, 136, 158. This 
is, of course, contrary to modern experience. 



travels freely ihroua^h bodies '^' and especially mat;- 
netic bodies;''" one can understand the action of 
the armature on tliis basis. "* Since coition cannot 
be prevented by shieldins?, it must have an imma- 
terial cause. '^' 

Yet, unless one has the oeeult action-at-a-distance, 
ehan?;e must be caused by contact forces. Gilbert 
resolved the paradox of combining contact forces 
with forces tiiat cannot bi- shielded, by passing to 
a higher level of aljstraction for the explanation of 
magnetic phenomena: he saw the contact as that of 
a form with matter. 

Although Gilbert remarked that the cause of mag- 
netic phenomena did not fall within any of the cate- 
gories of the formal causes of the Aristotelians, he 
did not renounce for this reason the medieval tradi- 
tion. Actually there are many similarities between 
Gilbert's explanation of the loadstone's powers and 
that of St. Thomas. Magnetic coition is not due to 
any of the generic or specific forms of the .Aristo- 
telian elements, nor is it due to the primary qualities 
of any of their elements, nor is it due to the celestial 
"generans" of terrestrial change. ^'^ 

Relictis aliorum opinionibus dc magiiclis alliactione; 
nunc coitionis illius rationem. ct motus illius commoNcmcm 
naturain docebimus. Cum vero duo sint corporuin genera, 
quae manifestis sensibus nostris molionibus corpora ailicere 
videntur, Electrica et Magnetica; Electrica naturalibus ab 
humore effluviis; Magnetica formalibus cfRcienliis, seu 
potius priinariis vigoribus. incitaliones faciunt. l''onna 
ilia singularis est, el peculiaris, non Peripalelicoruin causa 
formalis, et specifica in mi.xtis, est sccunda forma, non 
generanlium corporum propagatrix; sed primorum el 
praeciporum globorum forma; et partium corum homo- 
genearum, non corruptarum, propria enlilas et e.\islentia, 
quam nos primariam, et radiealcm, et astream appellare 
possumus formam; non formam primam Aristolelis; sed 
singularem illam. quae globum suum proprium tuclur ct 
disponit. Talis in singulis globis. Sole, lunas ct astris, est 
una; in terra ctiam una, quae vera est ilia potenlia mag- 
netica, quam nos primarium vigorem appellamus. Quare 
magnetica natura est telluris propria, eiusque omnibus 
verioribus partibus, primaria ct stupenda ratione, insita; 
haec ncc a cacio toto dcrivatur procreaturve, per sym- 
pathiam, per influentiam, aut oceultiores qualitates; ncc 
peculiar! aliquo astro: est enim suus in tcllure magncticus 

'" M: pp. 106, 107, 108, 114, 134, 136, 140, 162. 
i"M: pp. 106, 109, 114, 159, 162. 
""M: pp. 137-140. 
'" M: p. 109. 
"« M: p. 
ch. 4, p. 65. 


105, and Gilbert, De magncle, London, 1600, bk. 

vigor, sicut in sole ct luna suae formae; frustulumquc; 
lunac, lunaticc ad cius tcrminos, ct formam compxanit se; 
soiarque; ad solcm, sicut magnes ad tellurcm, ct ad altcrum 
magnetem, secundum naturam scse inclinando ct alliciendo. 
Differendum igilur dc tcllure quae magnetica, et magnes; 
lum etiam dc partibus eius verioribus, quae magnelicae 
sunt; et quomodo ex eoilione difficiuntur. 

Instead, he declared it to be due to a form that is 
natural and proper to that element that he made the 
primary component of the earth."" 

To understand his argument, let us briefly recall 
the peripatetic theory of the elements. In this philos- 
ophy of nature each element or simple body is a 
combination of a pair of the four primary qualities 
that informs inchoate matter. These qualities arc the 
instruments of the elemental forms and determine 
the properties of the element. Thus the element fire 
is a compound of the qualities hot and dry, and the 
substantial form of fire acts through these qualities. 
.Similarly for the other elements, earth, water, and 
air: their forms determine a proper place for each 
element, and a motion to that place natural to each 

Gilbert had previously declared that the primary 
substance of the earth is an element. Since it is an 
element, it has a motion natural to it, and this motion 
is magnetic coition. As an Aristotelian considered 
the substantial form of the element, fire, to act 
through the qualities of hot and dry, and to cause 
an upward motion; so Gilbert argued that the sul)- 
stantial form of his element, pure loadstone, acts 
through the magnetic qualities and causes magnetic 
coition. This motion is due to its primary form, and 
is natural to the element earth.'*' It is instilled in all 
|)ri)per and undegenerate parts of the earth,"'' but 
in no other element.'" 

To the medieval philosopher, the '"generantia" of 
the occult powers of the loadstone are the heavenly 
bodies. Gilbert, however, endowed the earth with 
these heavenly powers which were placed in the 
earth in the beginning '" and caused all magnetic 
materials to conform with it both phvsicallv and 

"9 M: p. 105. 

'" M: pp. 289, 322. 

n' M: pp. 26, 68, 105, 179, 198, 307, 335, 343. I'or rotation, 
sec footnote 147. 

'*- M: pp. 67, 71. That cacli part is inlbrnu-d widi il\c 
properties of the whole is an argument favoring an animistic 
explanation of the nature of this form. 

'« M: p. 109. 

i« Nf: p|i. m, ISS. 



formally.''" Such magnetic powers are the property 
of all parts of the eanh;'^° they give the earth its 
rotating motion '"' and hoki ihe earth los^ether in 
spite of this motion."'" 

Indeed, each of the main stellar bodies, smi, moon, 
stars, and earth, has such a form or principle unique to 
itself that causes its i)arts not only to conform with 
itself liut to revolve."" Thus, if one removes a piece 
of the moon from this l)ody, it will tend to align itself 
with the moon and then to return to its proper place; 
and a fragment of the sun would similarly tend to 
return after pro|)er orientation.'"" Moreover, there is 
a farther-ranging, though weaker, mutual action of 
the heavenly bodies so that one has a causal hierarchy 
of these specific conforming powers. The form of the 
sun is superior to that of the inferior globes and is 
responsible for the order and regularity of planetary 
orbits.'^' In like manner, the moon is responsible for 
the tides of the ocean. '^'- 

By virtue of the causal hierarchy of forms, the 
loadstone acquires its magnetic powers from the 
earth. '^' As the earth has its natural parts, so has 
the stone. '^■' Although the geometrical center of a 
terrella is the center of the magnetic forces, '^^ objects 
do not tend to move to the center but to its poles, '^' 
where the magnetic energy is most conspicuous.'" 
However, in a sense, the energy is everywhere equal : 
the virtue is spread throughout the entire mass of the 
loadstone, '°* and all the parts direct the forces to the 
poles. '^' The poles become the "thrones" of the 
magnetic powers.'* On the other hand, the directive 
force is stronger where coition is weaker and accord- 
ingly, verticity is most prominent at the equator.'*' 

"<5M: pp. 67, 105, 179, 183. 

'<« M: pp. 101, 105, 217. 

'<"M: pp. 179, 304, 305, 311, 322, 326, 328, 330-334, 338- 

'♦'* M: pp. 142, 179; see also electric attraction, p. 97. 

'<»M: pp. 308, 317-343. 

ISO M: pp. 106, 340. 

'51 M: pp. 308, 309, 311, 330, 333, 344, 347. 

>" M: pp. 136, 334, 345. 

153 M: pp. 184-186, 190, 232. This is not quite the same 
argument as that the powers of the loadstone are identical 
with those of the earth. See footnote 78. 

1" M: pp. 125, 180. 

1" M: p. 151. 

i5«M: pp. 121, 150. 

i"M: pp. 115, 151, 165. 

15* M: pp. 106, 118, 151, 191, 205, 221, 243. 

'5»M: pp. 116, 117, 119, 131, 183, 188, 221. 

iMM: p. 31. 

i«i M: pp. 116, 151, 200. 

The strength of a loadstone depends upon its shape 
and mass. A bar magnet has greater powers than a 
spherical one because it tends to concentrate the 
magnetic jjowers more in the ends.'*^ For a given 
purity and shape, the heavier the loadstone, the 
greater its strength.'*' A loadstone has a maximum 
degree of magnetic force that cannot be increased.'*^ 
However, weaker ones can be strengthened by stronger 
ones.'*^ Similarly, the shape and weight of the iron 
determine the magnetic force in coition.'*" 

The formal forces of a loadstone emanate in all 
directions from it,'" but there is a bound to it that 
Gilbert called the "orbis virtutis."'** The shape of 
this "orbis virtutis" is determined by the shape of the 
stone."'' This insensible effusion is analogous to the 
spreading of light that reveals its presence only by 
opaque bodies.'™ Siinilarly, the magnetic forms are 
effused from the stone,''' and can only reveal their 
presence by coition with another loadstone or by 
"awakening" magnetic bodies within the "orbis 
virtutis."'''^ Unmagnetized iron that comes w'ithin 
the "orbis virtutis" is altered, and the magnetic virtue 
renews a form that is already potentially in the iron.'"' 
The formal energy is dravwi not only from the stone 
but from the iron.''* This is not generation, or altera- 
tion in the sense of a new impressed quality, but 
alteration in the sense of the entelechy or the activa- 
tion of a form potentially present.'"^ Those bodies 

'«2 M: pp. 131, 132, 153-158. 

'« M: pp. 141, 152, 153, 158, 161, 191, 222. 

'«* M: p. 146. 

'"M: p. 165. 

i«9M: p. 153. 

i«' M: pp. 121, 123, 124, 304, 305, 306, 307, 309. 

"" Gilbert defined the orbis virtulis in the glossary at the 
beginning of his treatise as, ". . . totum illud spatium, per 
quod quaevis magnetis virtus e.xtenditur." This is the core of 
the difference between electric and inagnetic forces. The sub- 
stantial form of an electric could not be "effused," but was 
"imprisoned" in matter (as the Ncoplatonic soul in the human 
body); while the primary form of a magnet did not require 
a material carrier and its effusion was similar to the propaga- 
tion of a species in light. 

'«» M: pp. 124, 150, 151. 

1™ M: pp. 123, 307. 

■"' M: pp. 304-307. -See also p. 310, where it is stated that 
the sun and earth could awaken souls. 

1" M: pp. 101, 110, 112, 123, 148, 149, 304, 305. This 
awakening of the iron within tlte "orbis virtutis" is comparable 
(pp. 216, 350) to the birth of a child under the influence of 
the stars. 

•"' M: pp. 110, 111,112,189,216,217. See also footnote 36. 

1'* M: p. 106. 

i"M: pp. 106, 109, no. 




magnetized by coming within the "orbis virtutis" 
have in turn an efflux of their own."* Iron can also 
receive verticity directly from the earth without the 
intervention of an ordinary loadstone.'" Such 
verticity can be expelled and annulled by the presence 
of another loadstone.'"* 

Although one does not normally find iron to be 
magnetized, a loadstone always has some magnetism. 
That two bodies such as iron and loadstone should 
have different properties is the result of the loss of a 
form by the iron, but this form is still polentiallv 
present in the iron. The iron that has been obtained 
from an ore has been deformed, '"' for it has been 
placed "outside its nature" by the fire.'*" The nature 
has not been removed, since, once the iron has 
cooled, the confused form can be reformed by a load- 
'-' The latter "awakens" the proper form of 
After smelting, the magnetized iron may 
manifest stronger powers than a loadstone of equal 
weight, but this is because the primary matter of the 
earth is purer in the iron than in the loadstone.'*' 
If fire does not deform a loadstone too much, it can 
be remagnetized,"** but a burnt loadstone cannot be 
reformed."' Corruption from external causes may 
also deform a loadstone or iron so that it can not be 
magnetized.'*'' Bodies mixed with the degenerate 
substance of the earth or with aqueous humor spoilt 
by contamination with earth, do not show either 
electric attraction or magnetic coition."*" 

In a manner suggestive of Peregrinus, Gilbert 
wrote that, "magnetic bodies seek formal unity." "* 
Thus a dissected loadstone not only tends to come 
back together, as in the unordered coacervation of 
electric attraction, but to restore the organization 
it had before dissection."*^ Accordingly, opposite 
poles appear on the interfaces of the sections, not 
"from an opposition" but from "a concordance and 
a conformance." ""' This ensures that when the 















p. : 










P- ■ 














. 148, 

. 149. 

























p. 84. 



p. 1 








also footnote 31 






parts are joined together again, they have the same 
orientation as before. Gilbert compared this power 
of restoring the original loadstone with that of a 
plant's vital power under the process of cutting and 
grafting; the plant can be revived only when the parts 
are in a certain order."' 

A hypothesis similar to that used to explain electric 
attraction lay beneath the explanation of magnetic 
coition: that bodies brought into contact will move 
together. In electric attraction, the contact is ma- 
terial and due to the "spiritus" from the electric body; 
in magnetic coition, it is formal and depends on the 
action of a primary form that spreads from a magnet- 
ized body to its limit of effusion, the "orbis virtutis." 
If iron is inside the "orbis virtutis," the two bodies "en- 
ter into alliance and are one and the same" "^ for within 
it "they have ab.solutc continuity, and are joined by 
reason of their accordance, albeit the Ixidies them- 
selves be separated." "' 

Gilbert's treatment of coition can be analyzed into 
the same two steps as can electric attraction. First 
occurs a contact, which in this case is not physical 
but formal, and from this initial formal contact 
follows movement to a more complete unity. Both 
the contact and the movement to unity are described 
on the same level of abstraction, instead of on two 
different levels as in electric attraction. Again 
one does not find any clear-cut concept of force as a 
push or pull,"* but instead, a motion to a formal 
unity, this time a cooperative motion. The parts of 
a magnetic body are in greater harmony when they 
are as.sembled in a certain pattern and so they move 

As to the nature of the primary form itself, Gilbert 
agreed with Thales that it is like a soul,"* "for the 
power of self-movement seems to betoken a soul." '" 
W'ith Galen and St. Thomas he placed the form of 
the loadstone superior to that of inanimate matter. '*' 
In a sense, Gilbert even made it superior to organic 
matter, for it is incapable of error."' Like the soul, 
the primary form cannot be fragmented; when a 
loadstone is divided, one does not separate the poles 
but each part acquires its own poles and an equator. 

'»' M: pp. 199-200. 

'« M: p. 111. 

'" M: p. 112. 

"• See, however, M: pp. 112, 113. 

'" M: pp. 109, 312. 

"« M: p. 109. 

'»• M: p. 309. 

'« M: pp. 311-312. 



Like the soul, fire does not destroy it.''" Like the 
soul of astral bodies, and of the earth itself, it pro- 
duces complex hut motions; ttie motion of 
two loadstones on water oHers such an example."*" 
Like the soul of a newborn child, whose nature 
depends on the eonlimiration of the hea\ens, the 
properties in the newly awakened iron depend upon 
its position in the "orbis \irtutis."' •'" 

Whence Gilbert declared: 
. . . the earllis magnelic force and the animate form 
of the globes, that arc without senses, but without error . . . 
exert an unending action. (|uick, (Icfuiiic. ci)ns(ani. directive, 
motive, impcrant, harmonious through the whole mass of 
matter; thereby are the generation and the ultimate decay 
of all things en the superficies prcpagated.^"' 1 he 
bodies of the globes ... to the end that they might be in 
themselves, and in their nature endure, had need of souls 
to be conjoined to them, for else there were neither life, 
nor prime act, nor movement, nor unition, nor order, nor 
coherence, nor conactus, nor sympathin, nor any generation 
nor alteration of seasons, and no propagation; but all were 
in confusion . . . .^°^ Wherefore, not with reason, Thales 
. . . declares the loadstone to be animate, a part of the 
animate mother earth and her beloved offspring. 

(iilbert ended book .S of his treatise on the magnet 
with a persuasive plea for his magnetic philo.sophy 
of the cosmos, yet his conceptual scheme was not too 
successful an induction in the eyes of his contempo- 
raries. In particular the man from whom the Royal 
Society took the inspiration for their motto, "Nullius 
in verba," did not value his magnetic philosophy very 
highly. Whether Francis Bacon was alluding to 
Gilbert when he expounded his parable of the spider 
and the ant ^' is not explicit, but he certainly had 
him in mind when he wrote of the Idols of the Cave 
and the Idols of the Theater.-'"" 

Few of the sub.sequent experimenters and writers 
on magnetism turned to Gilbert's work to explain the 
effects they discus.sed. Although both his countrymen 
Sir Thomas Browne ^' and Robert Boyle ^"^ de- 

"« M: p. 108. 

2MM: p. 110. 

2»i M: p. 216. 

2»2 M: p. 311. 

2«M: pp. 310, 311, 

20* M: p. 312. 

205 Francis Bacon, oj>. cit. (footnott- 42), vol. 1, Novum organum, 
bk. 1, ch. 95, p. 306. 

2»« Ibid., ch. 54 and ch. 64 (pp. 259 and 267). 

2°' Sir Thomas Browne, Pseudndoxia epidemka, cd. 3, London, 
1658, bk. 2, ch. 2, 3, 4. 

2"* Robert Boyle, Experiments and notes about the mechanical 
production oj magnetism, London, 1 676. 

scribed a number of the experiments already described 
by Gilbert and even used phrases similar to his in 
describing them, they tended to ignore Gilbert and 
his explanation of them. Instead, both turned to an 
explanation based u|)on magnetic effluvia orcor]3Uscles. 
riie only direct continuation of Gilbert's De magnele 
was the Philnsophia magnetica of Nicolaus Gabeus."™ 
The latter sought to bring Gilbert's explanation of 
magnetism more directly into the fold of medieval 
substantial forms. 

However, CJilbert's efloris towards a magnetic 
philosophy did find approval in two of the men that 
made the .seventeenth century scientific revolution. 
While Galileo Galilei -"' was critical of Gilbert's 
arguments as being unneces.sarily loose, he neverthe- 
less saw in them some support for the Copernican 
world-system. Johannes Kepler -" found in (iilbert's 
explanation of the loadstone-earth a possible physical 
framework for his own investigations on planetary 

Yet Galileo and Kepler had moved beyond (iillx-rt's 
world of intellectual exi)erience. They were no 
longer concerned with determining the nature of 
material things in order to explain their qualities. 
Instead, they had passed into the realm of the mathe- 
matical relations of kinematics: quantitative law had 
replaced cjualitative experience of cause and efTect. 
Gilbert had some intimations of the former, but he 
was primarily concerned with explaining magnetism 
in terms of substance and attribute. He had to 
ascertain the nature of the loadstone and of the earth 
in order to explain their properties and their motions. 
He even went further and explained the nature of 
the form of the loadstone. 

His method of determining the nature of a sub- 
stance was a rather primitive one — it was not by a proc- 
ess of induction and deduction, nor by synthesis and 
analysis, nor by "resolutio" and "compositio," but by 
the use of analogies. He compared the natural history 
of metals and rocks with that of plants, and gave the 
two former the same kind of principle as the last. 
He detenniiu-d the nature of the entity behind electric 
attraction by finding that such attractions could be 
screened, and hence it had to be corporeal. After 
comparing this "corporeal" attraction with that of 

-™ Nicolaus Cabcaiis, Philosophia magnetica, Fcrarra, 1629. 

2'" Galileo Galilei, Dialogue on the great world systems, in the 
translation of T. Salusbury, edited and corrected by G. de 
Santillana, University of Chicago Press, 1953, pp. 409-423. 

2u Cassircr, op. cit. (footnote 3), vol. 1, p. 359-367. 



the surface forces ol a fluid, he concluded that the 
entity was a subtle fluid. He determined the nature 
of the entity behind may;netie coition by (incorrectly) 
findina; that it cannot be screened, and hence the 
cause had to be a formal one. Since both stars and 
the loadstone can carry out regular motions, and 
stars had souls, the form of the loadstone had to be 
a soul. The method of analogy was used again in 
his comparison of the properties of a magnetized 
needle placed over a terrella with the properties of 
a compass placed over the earth, whence he concluded 
the earth to be a giant loadstone. Since the earth 
resembled the other celestial globes, it had to have, 
the circular inertia of these globes."'" .Xs for his 
magnetic experiments to show ])hysically tlial the 
earth moved, and his unbridled speculations on the 
"animae"' of the celestial globes, one is inclined to 
agree with Bacon's estimate of his magnetic ])hi- 

One might consider Gilbert's book as a Renais- 
sance recasting of Aristotle's De ctiflo with liie eanh 
in the role of a heavenly body. So it might well be, 
for Gilbert was still concerned with distinguishing 
the nature of the heavenly body, earth, that caused 
the coitional and revolving motions, from those 
natures for which up and down, and coacervation 
were the natural motions. the natural 
motions were different, the natures had to be difterent, 
and these different natures led to a universe and a 
concept of space neither of which were Aristotelian. 
One no longer had a central reference point for 
absolute space; there was no "motor essentialis" 
focused upon the earth but one had oifly the mutual 
motion of the heavenly bodies. The natural distinc- 
tion between heaven and earth was gone, for the 
earth was no longer an inert recipient init a source 
of wonder, and .so the stage was set for the universe 

of Giordano Bruno. ^" The Aristotelian philcsophy 
of nature was used to justify a new cosmology, but 
there was no break with the past such as one finds in 
Galileo and Kepler. Instead he followed the chimera 
of the world organism, as Paracelsus had, and of the 
world soul, as Bruno had. Consequently Gilbert's 
physiology did not enter into the main stream of 

Yet this is not to deny Gilbert's services to natural 
philosophy. Although not all of his experimental 
distinction between electric and magnetic forces 
has been retained, still, some of it has. His "orbis 
virtulis'' was to become a field of force, and his class 
of electrics, insulators of electricity. His practice 
of arming a loadstone was to be of considerable im- 
portance in the period before the invention of the 
electromagnet. His limited recognition of the mutual 
nature of forces and their quantitative basis in mass 
was ultimately to appear in Newton's .second and 
third laws of motion. In spite of the weaknesses of 
the intthod of analogy, Gilbert's experimental model 
of the terrella to interpret the earth's magnetism 
was as much a contribution to scientific method as 
to the theory of magnetism. 

C'.onsequently, in spite cf an explanation of elec- 
tricity and magnetism that one would be amused to 
find in a textbook today, we can still read his De 
magnete with interest and profit. But more important 
than his scientific speculations, is the insight he can 
give us into a Renaissance philosophy of nature and 
its relation to medieval thought. One does not find 
in De magnete a prototype cf modern physical science 
in the same sense one can in the writing.^ of Galileo 
and Kepler. Instead one finds here a full-fledged 
example of an earlier kind of science, and this b 
Gilbert's main value to the historian today. 

212 Because the earth has the same nature as a celestial globe, 
its revolution and circular inertia require no more explanation 
than those of any other heavenly body. 

-" One wonders if Bruno might not have lieen another of the 
stimuli for Gilbert. The latler's interest in magnetism bcgfm 
shortly before Bruno visited England and lectured on his 
interpretation of the Copernican theory 



Contributions from 
The Museum of History and Technology: 

Paper 9 

Conestoga Wagons in 
Braddock's Campaign, 1755 

Don H. Berkebile 


Bj Don H. Berkehile 


More tbdu 200 years have passed since the 
Pennsylvania farm wagon, the ancestral form of 
the Conestoga wagon, first won attention through 
tnilitary service in the French and India>i War. 
These early ivagons, while not generally so well 
known, were the forerunners of the more popular 
Conestoga freighter of the post-Revolutionary period 
and also of the swaying, jolting prairie schooners 
that more recently carried hopeful immigrants to 
the western territories . 

The Author: Don H. Berkehile is on the ex- 
hibits staff of the Smithsonian Institution s United 
States National Museum. 

IN A SPEECH to the Pennsylvania Assembly on De- 
cember 19, 1754, Governor Morris suggested a 
law that would "settle and establish the wages" to be 
paid for the use of the wagons and horses which 
soon were to be pressed into military service for the 
expedition against Fort DuQuesne.' His subsequent 
remarks on the subject were all too indicative of the 
difficulties which were later to arise. The Assembly 
however, neglected to pass such an act, and the 
Maryland and Virginia Assemblies were equally lax 
in making provision for General Braddock's trans- 

Sir John St. Clair had told Braddock, shortly after 
his arrival in the colonies in late February 1755, "of 
a great number of Dutch settlers, at the foot of a 
mountain called the Blue Ridge, who would under- 
take to carry by the hundred the provisions and 
stores ...."' St. Clair was confident he could have 
200 wagons and 1,500 pack horses at Fort Cumber- 
land by early May. On April 21 Braddock reached 
Frederick, in Maryland. There he found that only 

' Pennsylvania Archives, scr. 8, vol. 5, Morris to the House, Dec. 
19, 1754. 

2 Robert Orme's Journal, in VVintlirop .Sargent, Tlie 
history nf an expedition against Fort DuQtiesne, p. 288, Phila- 
delphia, 1855. 

25 wagons had come in and several of these were 
unserviceable. Furiously the General swore that the 
expedition was at an end. At this point, Benjamin 
Franklin, who was in Frederick to placate the wrath of 
Braddock and St. Clair against the Pennsylvanians, 
commented on the advantages the expedition might 
have gained had it landed in Philadelphia instead 
Alexandria,' and pointed out that in eastern Penn- 
sylvania every farmer had a wagon. Braddock then 
suggested that Franklin try to raise the needed 150 
wagons and the 1,500 pack honses. Asking that the 
terms to be offered be first drawn up, Franklin 
agreed to the undertaking and was accordingly com- 
missioned. On his return to Pennsylvania, Franklin 
published an advertisement at Lancaster on April 
26, setting forth the terms offered (the full text of 
this advertisement is found in Franklin's autobi- 

Although eventually successful, Franklin was beset 
by many difficulties in collecting the wagons. Farmers 
argued that they could not spare teams from the work 
of their farms. Others were not satisfied with the 
terms offered. Furthermore, the Quaker-controlled 
Assemblv had little interest in the and did noth- 

' Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, p. 166, New York, 1939. 



^r^v>!f^ iute I 

Figure i. — Braddock's 
Route in the campaign of 
1755. The solid line ap- 
proximates the present U. S. 
route 40. From VVinthrop 
Sargent, The history of an 
expedition against Fort Du- 
Quesne, Philadelphia. 1755. 

ing to regulate the hire of wagons, in spite of the 
repeated pleas of the governor. Franklin published 
new advertisements more strongly worded than the 
first, threatening an impress of wagons and drivers 
if better cooperation could not he had.' Finally the 
governor found it necessary to issue threatening 
warrants to the magistrates of four of the more re- 
luctant coimties. This action brought in the wagons 
but caused new difficulties to arise, for in order to 
prevent trouble the townships had contributed, in 
addition to the fifteen shillings per day offered in 
Franklin's terms, from fi\e to fifteen pounds to each 
owner who would hire out his wagon. 

This practice caused others to demand more for 
their services. Governor Morris wrote to Richard 
Peters that lu- was "preparing to send sixty waggon 
loads of oats and corn from hence (Philadelphia), for 

* Pennsylvania Archives, scr. 1, vol. 2, pp. 295-96. Franklin 
suggested that St. Clair, with a body of troops, would probably 
enter Pennsylvania and take what ho wanted, if it could not 
be obtained otherwise. 

which I am sorry to say, that I shall be obliged to 
give more for the transporting of it. than the thins; 
is worth, such advantages are taken by the people of 
the Public wants. . . ." '' Two weeks later Edward 
Shippen, explaining the teamsters side of tlie argu- 
ment, told how they had to pay ferriage at the Susque- 
hannah and make the return trip with empty wagons.' 
It would be well to mention here that not all of the 
wagons were to accompany the expedition; many 
were to transport supplies only to Conococheague '' or 
to Wills Creek, and it was the owners of these wagons 
who, since they did not feel bound by the same terms 
oflTered the 150 accompanying tlie expedition, most 
often took advantage of Uic situation. In addition, 
wagons were needed to supply Colonel James Burd 
and his party, who were building the Pennsylvania 

'- Ihid., ser. 1, vol. 2, Morris to IVlors. May 30, 1755. 

• Ibid., .Shippen to Morris, June 13, I "55. 

'The modern spelling is given above. A number of spellings 
were common in 1755, among them Conegogce, Connccochicg, 
and Cannokagig. 



Figure 2. — Straki-.s Bf.forf. Biaxt; Completely 
Unearthf.d. Stiakcs arc sections of wagon tire, 
equal in number to ihc felloes of the wheel. 

road from Shippcnsburg to the forks of the Youghio- 
ghcny,** where it was to meet with Braddock's road. 
When word came back to the settlements that Indians 
had killed several of Burd's wagoners, recruiting 
became still more difficult. The alarm became so 
great that the road builders threatened to leave if 
protection was not sent them. Accordingly, Captain 
Hogg was sent with his company from Braddock's 
army to cover them.' 

The farm wagons used in these operations were 
often referred to as Conestoga wagons.'" This term 
was apparently in general use at least as early as 
1750, when the term "Dutch Wagon" was also used 
in referring to this particular type of vehicle." The 

'This is the modern spclliiii,'. .\mone; those used in 1755 
were Yoxhio Geni and Ohiogany. 

"Pennsylvania Archives, ser. 1, vol. 2, Shipprn to Allen, June 
30, 1755. Also, Ormc's Journal, in Sargent, op.cit. (footnote 2), 
p. 329. 

'" Originally spelled Concstogoe. The first known reference 
to a Conestoga wagon appears under date of 1717 in James 
Logan's "Account Book, 1712-1719," the manuscript original 
of which is in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, in Phila- 
delphia. It is likely that the reference was only to a wagon 
from Conestogoe, and not to a definite type of vehicle. 

" The term seems to have been in common use by 1750 since 
a tavern in Philadelphia, called "The Sign of the Conestogoe 
Waggon," was mentioned in an advertisement in the Pennsyl- 
vania Gazftte, February 5, 1750, but another advertisement, 
(ibid., February 12, 1750), in referring to what was apparently 
the same establishment, uses the term "Dutch Waggon." 

Figure 3. — .Six .Strakes .^RRA^■GED in a Circle, as 
they would encompass a 12-spoke wheel. In the 
center are two e.\tra strakes, two hub bands, and a 

hub bo.xing (the smaller ring). 

C^oncstoga, deri\ing its name from the Conestoga 
valley near Lancaster, was apparently a Penn.sylvania 
adaptation of the English wagon. '^ Unfortunately 
there are no existing specimens of early wagons of 
whose age we can be certain, and the few wagon 
fragments that have been unearthed are insufficient 
to justify any conclusions. A number of strakes '^ 
were found in Edmund's Swamp (figs. 2-5), on the 
route of the Forbes expedition in 1758. These indicate 
a wheel diameter of 64 inches and a tire 2 inches 
wide.'* The 2-inch tires are undoubtedly relics of 
a farmer's wagon, since the various military vehicles 
had tires no less than ?> inches and often on the 
heavier tyjies 4 inches wide. The use of strakes also 

'- It is not certain at this time whether or (Jerrnan 
styles influenced the Conestoga wagon most. Judging from 
some early English wagons still in CNistence, it would appear 
that some of these lines were followed. Even today some 
farmers, and those who have been close to the wagon and its 
use, frequently refer to the Conestoga type as "English wagons." 

I' Strakes arc sections of wagon tire, equal in number to the 
felloes of a wheel. On early vehicles the tires were put on in 
sections and spiked in place. Later, one endless tire was 
"sweated" on, by being heated, fitted on the wluel. and 
cooled in place. 

'* Found in 1953 by the Field Corps for Historical Research, 
these strakes are obviously from rear wheels. Though dimen- 
sions were by no means standardized, front wheels were always 
smaller, so that in turning the wagon the tires would be less 
likely to rub the sides of the wagon box. 



Figure 4. — A Strake, Showing Spikes. On early 
vehicles the tires were put on in sections and spiked 
in place. Later one endless tire was "sweated" on by 
being heated to expand it, fitted on the wheel, and 
cooled in place. 

indicates that these early wagons had no brakes such 
as the large Conestogas of a later era had.'^ From all 
indications it would appear that these early farm 
wagons differed froin the larger freighters of the 
1790's and were probably similar to the lighter, 
fann-type Conestogas of the 19th century. Farm 
\Nagons are somewhat smaller than road wagons, 
generally bear less ornamentation and lack the more 
graceful lines of the latter. 

Contemporary letters and newspaper advertise- 
ments attest to the fact that farm wagons were the 
type used by Braddock. For example, Franklin's 
advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette on May 22, 
1755, noted that "several Neighbors may con- 
veniently join in fitting out a Waggon, as was lately 
done in the Back Counties." Had these wagon 
owners been other than farmers of poor means, such 
a notation would have been unnecessary. In another 
communication to the inhabitants of Lancaster, 
York, and Cumberland Counties Franklin said, 
"three or fntr of such as cannot separately spare 
from the business of their Plantations a Wagon 
and four Horses and a Driver, may do it together, 
one furnishing the \Vaggon, another one or two 

1* Strakcs were sjjikod onto the wheel with large square 
headed nails, as indicated in figure 3, and a brake shoe would 
have been rapidly torn to pieces by rubbing against them. 

Figure 5. — Bands and Hi'b Boxing shown in figure 3. 
Fhese and the strakes shown in figures 2-4, parts of 
an old Pennsylvania farm wagon, were found in 
Edmunds .Swamp, Pennsylvania, along the route of 
the Forbes Expedition of 1758. 

Horses, and another the Driver, and divide the pay 
proportionably between you." '* Many letters de- 
scribe the owners of the wagons with such phrases 
as "the Poorer sort," and "narrow circumstances of 
the Country People, who are to supply the wag- 
gons. . . ." '' These remarks indicate that farm 
wagons were used and suggest that the larger Con- 
estogas, such as were driven by professional teamsters, 
probably had not yet been developed. 

That Braddock's wagons were small is evidenced 
by the loads carried. Governor Morris seems to 
indicate loads as small as thirty-five bushels when he 
sent a dispatch to Braddock informing him that he 
had bought "one thousand bushels of Oats and one 
thousand bushels of Indian Corn in this town [Phil- 
adelphia], and have directed sixty waggons to be 
taken up." '* This is substantiated by a remark in 
Captain Orme's journal, in which he states that 
"The loads of all waggons were to be reduced to 
fourteen hundred weight. . . ." Under the same 
date, June 11, he indicated that the farmers wagons 
were smaller than the English wagons when he wrote 
"all the King's waggons were also sent back to the 

"^ Pennsylcama ArchivfS, scr. 1, vol. 2, pp. 293-96. 
" Ibid., scr. 1, vol. 2, Shippen to Morris, February 17, 1756; 
and ser. 4, vol. 2, Denny to Amherst, March 3, 1759. 
" /*/</., scr. 1, vol. 2, Morris to Braddock. June 4, 1755. 



fort, they being loo heavy and requiring large horses 
for the shafts. . . ." '•' Another communication from 
Morris slates ttiat he ''dispalched fifty-two waggons 
from this town, each carrying fifty bushels of grain, 
one half oats llie other Indian Clorn." "" This makes 
a load of about 2,200 pounds, •'' quite in agreement 
with the statement in the Gentlemen's Magazine of 
August 1755, that loads were commonly around 
one ton. A load of one ton is small in comparison to 
those hauled bv later wacions that sometimes carried 
as much as five or even six tons. 

An approximate description of the size of the wagon. 
taken from the earliest existing speciinens of the same 
type shows a bed about 12 feet long on the bottom 
and 14 feet on the top. Depth of the bed ran about 

'" Orme's Journal, in Sargont, op. cil. (footnote 2), pp. 331-32. 
English wagons were equipped witli pairs of shafts, similar to 
those of a spring wagon or buggy of recent times. Wagon 
shafts were, however, much heavier than the latter. 

2" Pennsylvania Archives, ser. 4, vol. 2, Morris to Braddock, 
June 12, 1755. 

■' R. Moore, The universal assistant, p. 205, New York, 
n. d. The weight of corn is given at 56 pounds per bushel, 
and oats at 32 pounds per bushel. 

Figure 6. — Restored Freight-Carrying Conestoga 
VV^^GON, about 1830, in the collection of the author. 
The tongue is not full length. {Photo by the author.) 

?>2 inches and the width was approxiinately 42 to 46 
inches. Though there was little standardization in 
most features, eight bows usually supported the dull 
white homespun co\er. The diameter of the front 
wheels \aried from 40 to 45 inches, while the rear 
wheels ran 10 to 20 inches larger.^' 

For a 1759 expedition it was recommended that 
wagon accessories include drag chains, grass cutting 
knives, axes, shovels, tar buckets (for lubricating axles), 
jacks, hobbles, and extra sets of such items as clouts 
(axle-bearing plates), nails, horseshoes, hames, linch 
pins, and hamestrings,^' It is doubtful if many 
teamsters in the 1755 expedition had so complete a 
selection of equipment; campaign experience in the 
mountains of western Pennsylvania was necessary to 

-- One light wagon of about 1800 had smaller wheels, the 
front being 37 inches and the rear 49 inches in diameter. 

-' Pennsylvania Archives, ser. 1, vol. 3, advertisement of General 
Stanwix for wagons, May 4. 1759. 



convince them of this necessity. There is no evidence 
that the hame bells later to be found on professional 
teams were used at this early date. The advertise- 
ment -* that was circulated for the 1759 expedition 
mentions a "slip bell . . . for each horse'" among the 
items necessary on an expedition, so it is possible 
that some drivers of the 1755 expedition may have 
used a single bell on each horse, as was the custom 
with pack horses. These bells, kept stuffed during 
the day, were unstuffed at night when the horses were 
put out to forage in the woods so that they might be 
more easily found in the norning. Orme mentions no 
bells, although he writes of other methods used to 
avoid losing horses at night. 

Early in May detachments of the Army began to 
arrive at Wills Creek. During the advance to Wills 
Creek the lack of transportation had been keenly felt. 
Wagons had been forced to shuttle back and forth 
between camps in order to keep all stores and pro- 
visions mo\ing forward.-^ By the latter part of May 
the Pennsylvania wagons were coming in; about 90 
arrived on May 20. That same night 30 wagons had 
to be sent on to Winchester to bring up to Wills Creek 
the pro\isions which could not be brought earlier for 

Figure 7. — Farm-Type Conestoga Wagon, about 
1850, in ihe collection of the author. The tongue 

is not full length. {Photo by the author.) 

lack of wagons. Also, 300 of the pack horses had to 
be sent back to Conocochcaguc, through which the 
wagons had jusi passed, to bring up the flour which 
agent Cresap of that place had through neglect or 
intention failed to forward in the wagons as he had 
been directed. On May 27, 100 wagons were on 
hand, with some still coming in.^' According to the 
accounts of the commission later appointed to settle 
wagoner's claims, 146 wagons with teams, and about 
510 pack horses were provided by Pennsylvanians 
to accompany the army.-"^ 

As the army prepared to mo\e from Fort CumlxM- 
land, William Shirley, secretary to General Braddock, 
advised Governor Morris "we move from this place 
with 200 Waggons." ''* In many communications 
such as this there appears a certain looseness in re- 
porting numbers in round figures, and in using 
the words "waggons" or "carriages" in an all in- 

-* Ih,d. 

■* Will H. Lowdcrmilk, Edward Braddock's ordnty books, 
Cumberland, 1880, p. 25. 

-<' .Seaman's Journal, in .S.imeni. n/i. cil. (footnote 2), p. 380. 
'" Lewis Burd Walker, cd., The selllemeni 0/ Ihe tvaggonfrs' 
accounts, 1899. 

-' Petmsyliania Archives, scr. 1, vol. 2, Shirley to Morris, June 7, 




elusive sense. It is oi)vioiis that such fiijurcs must 
often have included any vvheclcci vehicle, and some- 
times even the pun carriages. Thus the figure 200 un- 
doubtedly includes 145 Pennsyh'ania wagons,^ plus 
a number of British Army wagons, tumbrils, and 
perhaps gun carriages. By Braddock's own comit 
he had ajjout 40 wagons over and abo\c he got 
from Pennsylvania; "' how many of these were British 
wagons, tumbrils, or po.ssibly a few of the wagons 
Gage had impressed on his march to Wills Creek, is 

From the beginning of ihe march, the roads were 
a challenge, for both Braddock's and Burd's roads 
presented what appeared to be unsurmountable 
obstacles. An examination of the terrain o\er which 
they had to pass causes far greater respect for these 
road builders and drivers than is usually accorded 
them. Orme again comes fcjrward with the picture 
of their labors. Major Chapman had marched from 
Wills Creek at daybreak of May 30,^- with the ad- 
vance unit of the army and, says Orme, "it was 
night before the whole baggage had got over a moun- 
tain ai)out two miles from the camp. The ascent and 
descent were almost a perpendicular rock; three 
waggons were entirely destroyed, which were re- 
placed from the camp; and many more were ex- 
tremely shattered." '' Braddock went out from the 
fort and reconnoitered this section of road. Although 
300 men and the company of miners had been work- 
ing on the road for several days, the General "thought 
it impassable by howitzers," and was about to put 
another 300 to work when Lt. Spcndelowe of the 
detachment of seamen informed him of an easier route 
he had found." Thus the remainder of the wagons 
were spared the trip over the "perpendicular rock." 

2» Walker, op. cit. (footnote 27), p. 20. Of the 146 wagons, 
one was apparently uniicrviceablc by the time it reached Wills 
Creek. Its owner was paid only for his services and the use of 
his team. 

'" Orme's Journal, in .Sargent, op cil. (footnote 2), p. 321. 

" Ibid., p. 312. 

'- Ibid., p. 323. There is some question here whether the 
incident reported occurred near Wills Creek, or on June 15 in 
the Allegheny Mountains. Orme reports two such incidents 
with identical figures and nearly identical language. Perhaps 
he was confusing the two places. 

" Ibid., p. 334. When wagons were damaged on the march, 
and repair was impossible, the load was divided among the 
other wagons and the unserviceable wagon abandoned. 

'* Ibid., p. 324 (see also Seaman's Journal, in Sargent, op. cit. 
(footnote 2), p. 381). A detachment of 30 seamen and several 
ofTiccrs had been detached from the fleet and assigned to the 
expedition to offer as.sistance in rigging cordages, in the event 
that the erection of bridges would be necessary. 

In addition to these difTiciiliies of baggage inove- 
ment, there was the unavoiclalile peril tjf losing horses, 
particularly at night. Orme gives the following 
description of the situation: '"' 

Most of the horses which brought up the train were either 
lost, or carried home by their owners, the nature of the 
country making it impossible to avoid this fatal incon- 
venience, the whole being a continual forest for several 
hundred miles without inclosures or bounds by which 
horses can be secured: they must be turned into the woods 
for their subsistance, and feed upon leaves and young 
shoots of trees. Many projects, such as belts, hobles. &c., 
were tried, but none of these were a security against the 
wildness of the country and the knavery of the people we 
were obliged to employ: by these means we lost our horses 
almost as fast as we could collect them, and those which 
remained grew very weak, so we found ourselves every day 
less able to undertake the extra-ordinary march we were to 

Braddock soon appointed a Wagon Master Gen- 
eral, and under him wagon inasters, horse masters, and 
drovers. By his order, horses were to be mustered 
both morning and evening. When the men made 
camp, the wagons were to be drawn up in a single 
line along the road, with an interval between com- 
panies. Tlic horses were then turned into the woods 
to feed, surrounded by a line of sentinels who were 
not to pennit any horses to pass them. 

By June 16, when the first brigade reached Little 
Meadows, Braddock realized that the advance of his 
column was being retarded and his troops weakened 
by the number of wagons in his train.'" \Vashington, 
who had profited from his 17.S4 experiences in Pennsyl- 
vania, previously had recommended that Braddock 
use more pack horses and fewer wagons.'^ It became 
obvious that wagons, while ordinarily superior to pack 
animals, lost this advantage if the roads were not 
sufficiently opened to admit their easy passage. In 
view of this, Braddock decided to advance from Little 
Meadows with a picked detachment of 1,300 men and 
a niiniimnn of wagons, about 3(t in ntnnber. and to 

3'' Ihid., p. 313. 

'« Ibid., p. 334 (.see also Seaman's Journal, in Sargent, op. 
ril. (footnote 2), p. 383). At times it was necessary for half 
the troops to ground their arms and assist in moving the 
wagons up or down grades. 

^' Douglas .S. Freeman, George Washington, vol. 1, p. 140, New 
York, 1949. Washington had written his brother John on 
June 14 and given his opinion that they should "retrench the 
wagons and increase the number of bat horses." 



leave the heavier baggage with 84 wagons in charge of 
Colonel Dunbar and his 850 men.'* Prior to this re- 
organization at Little Meadows, four horse teams had 
been used in accordance with the terms of Franklin's 
advertisements. Now, however, the advance unit of 
the army marched with six horses to a wagon," a 
change necessitated equally by the rugged terrain and 
the hastily constructed roads with which they were 
forced to contend, and by the poor condition of the 

While this lightened column moved forward more 
rapidly, the mountainous and rocky roads continued 
to impede the progress of the army. On the morning 
of June 25 so steep a grade was encountered that the 
men were obliged to ease the carriages down with 
tackles. Throughout the remainder of June and the 
early part of July the column was so retarded by the 
road conditions that only a few miles could be covered 
each day.*' By July 4 the country had become less 
difficult and the army was able to add a few more 
miles to the daily march. At one o'clock on the after- 
noon of Julv 9 this small train of wagons moved over 
the second ford of the Monongahela between the 
troops of the 44th and 48th regiments. A short time 
later the unfortunate expedition met defeat for all its 
efforts. As the battle drew to a, many of the 
surviving troops began to gather around the wagons. 
This drew heavier fire on the wagons and at this 
point, said Franklin, "the waggoners took each a 
horse out of his team and scamper'd." *' 

3' Sargent, np. cit. (footnote 2), p. 203. Wagons apparently 
carried only artillery stores and other ammunition witli the ad- 
vance detachment. .All provisions were carried on pack horses. 

" Ornie's Journal, in Sargent, op. cit. (footnote 2), p. 336, 

*" Ibid., p. 332. Orme said the condition of the aimy was 
such that they could not reject any horses, a situation that was 
used to advantage by many contractors. He refers to the 
horses as "The offcasts of Indian traders, and scarce able to 
stand under one hundred weight." By contract they were to 
have carried twice that load. 

" Ibiil., pp. 342-346. On June 26, due to the "extreme 
badness of the road," the army covered 4 miles; on June 27, 
6 miles; June 28, 5 miles; and on June 30 pas.sage over a 
mountain reduced the day's march to 2 miles. 

<- Walker, op. cit. (footnote 27). It is interesting to note 
in the Waggoners' Accounts which of the teamsters appar- 
ently took a horse and "scamper'd." On the accounts of a 
number of them is entered the remark "to a horse returned," 
indicating that they were first credited for the loss of wagon and 
team, but the value of one horse was deducted in the final settle- 
ment, the one horse having arrived safely back at Wills Creek, 
in company, no doubt, with its anxious driver. 

As evening drew on, the wounded Braddock sent 
Washington back to Dunbar's Camp, nearly 45 miles 
behind, to order wagons forward with provisions and 
hospital stores and to transport the wounded back to 
Wills Creek. A number of these wagons met the re- 
treating army on July 11, at Gist's Plantation; then, 
after wounds were dressed, they returned to Dunbar's 
Camp. There most of the wagons were gathered with 
the stores and burned in order to keep them from the 
hands of the eneiny. The survivors continued their 
retreat, accompanied by a few of the wagons loaded 
with wounded comrades. 

The number of Pennsylvania wagons that arrived 
back at Wills Creek has not been definitely established. 
For the service of their wagons, 30 owners received 
payment for a period greater than the 51 days, but of 
these, only 10 were paid for services Ijeyond what ap- 
pears to be July 20.'" Only the wagon of William 
Douglas, out of 146 wagons involved, .seems to have 
survived the campaign intact.** Inasmuch as the 
other owners were reimbursed for the loss of their 
wagons, it is likely that those few that arrived back at 
Fort Cumberland were so badly damaged as to render 
them unserviceable, and therefore not worth driving 
back to eastern Pennsylvania. 

Seven criticisms were made of Braddock's advance 
to the forks of the Ohio. Of these seven, six, in vary- 
ing degrees, concern transportation.'" In choosing 
.•\lexandria to land his troops he put himself more dis- 
tant from the needed wagons; his horses were too few 
and too weak to bear the burden of all the supplies on 
the entire march, withotit depots having first been es- 
tablished at the various camps along the line of march; 
his troops were delayed by the progress of the wagons 
and by the necessity of their having to help with the 
wagons; the roads were inadequate in many places for 

" \ true picture is not presented here, since the accounts, ex- 
cept for a few cases, do not contain cither the number of days 
for which the owners were paid or the dates of service. Only 
the amounts paid are given, which, if broken down at 1 5 shillings 
per day, at first would appear to indicate llie last date of senicc. 
However, since it is not known which, if any, of these wagons 
went to Winchester before the march, no accurate conclusions 
can be reached. There can be little doubt that the few wagons 
that reached Wills Creek late in July were among the 30. 

" Walker, op. cit. (footnote 27), p. 24. Douglas was not reim- 
bursed for the loss of his wagon and was paid for an additional 
55 days of service at a slightly reduced rate, due to the loss of 
one horse. 

*' Freeman, op. cit. (footnote 37), vol. 2, p. 8''. 



the excessively heavy artillery and the wagons; the 
pack horses were weakened l)y the extra service they 
were required lu perform; and due lo his lack ol 
horses, Dunbar had been left too far JK-hind/'' While 
other factors contributed to the outcome of the 
expedition, many of the officers learned, as had 

Washington in 1754, the importance of proj)er 

'" Ihitl., p. yo. As wagons had been stuitllcd bark in .April, 
it was also necessary for Dunbar to shutllc horses, drawing up 
the first of his wagons one day and returning with his few 
horses on the following day to bring up llie balanee of the 


Styles hi farm equipment change sloivly, 
and it is ptobable that the farm-type 
Conestoga wagon of about 1850 shown in fig- 
ure 7 is similar in many respects to the 
Pennsylvania ivagons used by Braddock a 
century earlier. The praitie schooner, too, 
bore many of the characteristics of these early 
farm ivagons. It was about the same length 
as the Conestoga wagon, but the lines of the 
bed were straight rather than curved and the 
bows supporting the cloth cover were upright 
rather than slanting fore and aft. Also, the 
prairie schooner had a seat where the driver, 
or at least his family , could ride during the 
seemingly endless days of the journey . 

In this respect the prairie schooner differed 
not only from the early farm wagons, but also 
frotn the large freighting Conestogas, like that 
in figure 6 , which dates from about 1830 . In 

the years following the Revolution and before 
the coming of the railroad these freighters were 
used to carry all types of merchandise to 
Pittsburgh from Philadelphia by ivay of 
present route U.S. 30 and from Baltimore by 
way of present route U.S. 40. 

The freighting Conestoga had no inside 
seats, and the teamster, ivhen not walking by 
his team, either rode the left wheel horse or 
the "laZ}' board" projecting from the left 
side of the wagon, just in front of the rear 
wheel. It is distinguished by its distinc- 
tive, overhanging end bows, from which 
swept down the chatacteristic homespun 
cover, and by its lines, which are longer and 
more graceful than those of either the later 
prairie schooner or the earlier Pennsylvania 
farm wagon. 




© © 


© © 



Figure 8. — Freight-Carrying Wagon of tiik Period 1800- 1820. (Drawing by Donald W. Hoist.) 

This drawing and those of figures 9 and 10 arc from 
specifications, sketches, and photographs, now in the 
files of the division of transportation, U. S. National 
Museum, taken in 1925 by Paul E. Garber from a 
wagon then the property of Amos Gingrich, Lancaster, 
Pennsylvania. This wagon is illustrated in John 
Omwake's Conestoga six-horse bell teams, 1750- 1850, 
Cincinnati, 1930, pp. 57, 63, 87. 

a: Bed and running gear, right side: i. Bows for 
supporting cover. 2, Ridgepole, or stringer. 3. Top 
rail, with bow staples and side-board staples. 4. .Side- 
boards, removable. 5, Feedbox in traveling position. 
6, Rubbing plates to prevent wheels wearing wooden 
frame. 7, Side-board standards, forming framework 
of sides (on the inside, a few of these .sometimes project 

a few inches above the top rail to support the side- 
boards). 9, Securing rings for the ends of the spread 
chains, two of which span the bed to give extra sup- 
port to the sides against inside pressures. 

b: Tongue, or pole, top and side views: 1 , double- 
tree hasp, shown in proper position over the double- 
tree in the lower drawing: the hammer-headed 
doubletree pin goes through it. then through the 
doubletree and the tongue. 2, Wear plate for double- 
tree pin. 3, Feedbox staple; in use, the feedbox is 
unhooked from the rear, the long pin on one end of 
the box is passed through the hole for the doubletree 
pin, and the lug on the other end of the bo.\ is 
slipped through the staple. 4, Hitching rings, for 
securing horses while feeding. 5, End ring. 



a d 

±££ g 


Figure 9. — Dktails oi- the Freight-Carrying Wagon, 

a: Running gear, top view: i, Front and rear 
hounds. 2, Bolsters, with axletrees directly under- 
neath. 3, Coupling pole. 4, Brake beam. 5, Brake- 
beam shelf, or support. 6, Segments forming the 
fifth wheel; these prevented the bed from toppling, 
or swaying e.xcessivcly on turns. 7, Rear brace for 
front hounds, to keep tongue from dropping. 

b: Brake mechanism, detail: i, Brake rocker bar, 
with squared end for brake lever. 2, Rods connecting 
rocker bar to brake beam. 3, Rubber, or brakeshoe, 
made of wood, often faced with old leather. 4, Brake 
beam. 5, Brake-beam siielf, or support. 6, Brake 
lever, often 4 or 5 feel long. 

1 800- 1 820, OF Figure 8. (Draicing by Donald 11'. Hoist.) 

c: Front axletrec and bolsters, front view: i, .Xxle- 
tree. 2, Bolster, showing wear plates. 3, Upper 
bolster, actually part of the wagon bed. 4, Axle, 
showing ironing. 

d: Rear axletree and bolster, rear view: i, Axle 
tree, showing linchpin in position in right a.xle. 
2, Bolster. 3, Hook and staple for holding bucket of 
tar used in lubricating axles. 4. Hound pins. 

e: Toolbox, showing front, end, and top; it was 
secured to left side of wagon. 

/.• Doubletree, with singletrees attached. 

g: Brake mechanism, side view. 














w ' 


J — - — ^ 

. ^-/ 




Figure i o.- 

-Details of the Freight-Carrying Wagon, 1800-1820, of Figure 8. 


(Drawing by Donald IT. 

a: Feedbox: i,Top. 2, Side, showing pin and lug 
for securing to tongue. 3, End, sliowing bracket into 
wliich the chains hooked for traveling. 

b: Front end panel: i, Bottom end rail. 2, Middle 
end rail. 3, Top end rail. 4, Standard, or upright, 
forming end framing. 5, End boards. 6, Bow. 
7, Corner plates. 

c: Rear end gate: i , Staples for end-gate standards. 
2, End-gate hasps and hooks. 3, Pins to secure gate 
to upper side rails. 4, Crossbar to give extra support 
to end gate. 

d: Rear wheel. 

e: Cross section of wheel: 1, Boxings, of cast iron, 
wedged in hub to take wear of axle. 

/.• Front wheel: i. Felly, or felloe. ;. Spoke. 
3, Hub, or nave. 

g: Floor of wagon, from under side: i, Clross- 
beams, the center and rear ones being hca\ier, and 
projecting at the ends to hold the iron side braces 
visible in figure 8,a. 2, Bottom side rails. 3, Floor- 
boards. 4, Position of rear bolster when bed is on 
running gear. 5, Front bolster, showing hole for 



coxtridutioxs from 
The Museum of History and Technology: 

Paper 10 

Old English Patent Medicines in America 

George B. Gnjfeuhagen and 
James Harvey Young 












By George B. Grijfe^ihagen and James Harvey Young 

BatemiDi's Pectoral Drops, Godfrey's Cordial, Tur- 
Ihigton's Balsam of Life, Hooper's Female Bills, 
and a half-dozen other similar nostrums originated 
in England, mostly during the first half of the 18th 
century. Advertised with extravagant claims, their use 
soon spread to the American Colonies. 

To the busy settler, with little time and small means, 
these ready-made and comparatively inexpensive "rem- 
edies" appealed as a solution to problems of medical 
and pharmaceutical aid. Their popularity brought 
forth a host of American itnitations and made an im- 
pression not soon forgotten or discarded. 

The Authors: George B. Griffenhagen, formerly 
curator of medical sciences in the Smithsonian Institution s 
U.S. National Museum, is now Director of Communica- 
tions for the American Pharmaceutical Association. 
James Harvey Young is professor of history at Emory 
University. Some of the material cited in the paper was 
found by him ivhile he held a felloivship from the Fund 
for the Advancement of Education, in 1954~55, and 
grants-in-aid from the Social Science Kesearch Council 
and Emory University, in 19 5 6 -57 . 

IN 1824 THERE ISSLED from the press in Philadelphia 
a 12-page pamphlet bearing the title, Formulae Jur 
the preparation of eight patent medicines, adopted by the 
Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. The College ^\•as the 
first professional pharmaceutical organization es- 
tablished in America, having been founded in 1821, 
and this small publication was its first venture of any 
general importance. Viewed from the perspective of 
the mid-20th century, it may seem strange if not 
shocking that the maiden effort of such a college 
should be publicizing formulas for nostrums. Adding 
to the novelty is the fact that all eight of these patent 
medicines, with which the Philadelphians concerned 
themselves half a century after American independ- 
ence, were of English origin. 

Hooper's Female Pills, Anderson's Scots Pills, 
Bateman's Pectoral Drops, Godfrey's Cordial, Dalby's 
Carminative, Turlington's Balsam of Life, Steer's 
Opodeldoc, British Oil^in this order do the names 
appear in the Philadelphia pamphlet — all were 
products of British therapeutic ingenuity. Across 
the Atlantic Ocean and on American soil these eight 
and other old English patent medicines, as of the 
year when the 12-page pamphlet was printed, had 
both a past and a future. 

Origin of English Patent Medicines 

When the Philadelphia pharmacists began their 
study, the eight English patent medicines were from 



half a century to two centuries old.' The 
most ancient was Anderson's Scots Pills, a 
product of the 1630's, and the most recent 
was probably Dalby's Carminative, which 
appeared upon the scene in the 1780's. Some 
aspects of the origin and development of these 
and similar English proprietaries have been 
treated, but a more thorough search of the 
sources and a more integrated and interpretive 
recounting of the story would be a worthy 
undertaking. Here merely an introduction 
can be given to the cast of characters prior to 
their entrances upon the American stage. 

The inventor of Anderson's Scots Pills was 
fittingly enough a Scot named Patrick Ander- 
son, who claimed to be physician to King 
Charles I. In one of his books, published in 
1635, Anderson extolled in Latin the merits of 
the Grana Angelica, a pill the formula for 
which he said he had learned in Venice. 
Before he died, Anderson imparted the secret 
to his daughter Katherine, and in 1686 she 
in turn conveyed the secret to an Edinburgh 
physician named Thomas \V^eir. The next 
year Weir persuaded James II to grant him 
letters patent for the pills. Whether he did 
this to protect himself against competition 
that already had begun, or whether the 
patenting gave a cue to those always ready to 
cut themselves in on a good thing, cannot be 
said for sure. The last years of the 17th 
century, at any rate, saw the commencement 
of a spirited rivalry among various makers of 
Anderson's Scots Pills that was long to con- 
tinue. One of them was Mrs. Isabella Inglish, 
an enterprising woman who sealed her pill 
boxes in black wax bearing a lion rampant, 
three mallets argent, and the bust of Dr. 
Anderson. Another was a man named Gray 
who sealed his boxes in red wax with his coat 
of arms and a motto strangely chosen for a 
medicine, "Remember vou must die."' 



5>iii']^si^ saisiDa;oii57:E^-> 



' Unless otherwise indicated, the early English history of 
these patent medicines has been obtained from the following 
sources: "Proprietaries of other days," Chemist and Druggist, 
June 25, 1927, vol. 106, pp. 831-840; C. J. S. Thompson, 
The mystery and art oj the apothecary, London, 1929; C. J. S. 
Thompson, Qtiacks of old London, London, 1928; and .\. C. 
VVootton, Chronicles oJ pharmacy, London, 1910, 2 vols. 


MAY 4th, 1824. 

No. 32, Church Allfjr. 

Figure i. — The Philadelphi.\ College of Ph.\r- 
MACY in 1824 set forth in this pamphlet formulas for 
eight old English patent medicines. {Courtesy, Phila- 
delphia College of Pharmacy and Science, Philadelphia, 

Competition already had begun when Godfrey's 
Cordial appeared in the record in a London news- 
paper advertisement during December 1721. John 
Fisher of Hertfordshire, "Physician and Chymist," 
claimed to have gotten the true formula from its 
originator, the late Dr. Thomas Godfrey of the same 
county. But there is an alternate explanation. 
Perhaps the Cordial had its origin in the apothecar>- 
shop established about 1660 by (Hancko- 



Elixir Salutis : 




A Famous Cordial Drink, found oat 

by ihc Providence of the Almighty, and Ex» 
perienced a Moft Fxccllenc Prefervative of 


Far beyond anyMedicament yet known. 

And is t'ound To agreeable to Nature, Tliat 
it ^(fc&s all its Operations, as Nature would 
Have it, aod as a Vertual Expedieor propoTed by 
b<r, for reducing aU her Extieams nnto an equal 
Tentpei s the Came being fitted onto ali Jeest Sexes^ 
CompUxiees And CMjltt4aKiu, and highly toftifyiiig 
Harare agaiall any htoxioas hoffloar, invadiagor 
offending the ifoHt Parti : 

N<»»r l»uW.(b.<r bv a«y bai by M< 
ANTHONT DAFFTy Stadtvt i» fh^fffk. 

?t\eui (wli ABowsoet for ite Ambow by T. JiObcan^ i«7|. 

Figure 2. — Anthony Daffy Extolled the Virtues 
OF Hls Elixir Salutis in this pamphlet, published 
in London in 1673. {Courtesy, British Museum.) 

witz) Godfrey in Southampton Street, London. - 
According to a handbill issued during the late 17th 
century, Ambroise Godfrey prepared "Good Cordials 
as Royal English Drops." 

With respect to his rivals, the 18th-century Hert- 
fordshire vendor of the Cordial warned in the ]Veekly 
Journal (London), December 23, 1721: "I do advise 
all Persons, for their own Safety, not to meddle with 
the said Cordial prepared by illiterate and ignorant 
Persons, as Bakers, Malsters, [sic] and Goldsmiths, 

2 "How the patent medicine industry came into its own," 
American Druggist, October 1933, vol. 88, pp. 84-87, 232, 234, 
236, 238. 

that shall pretend to make it, it being beyond 
their reach; so that by their Covclousness and 
Pretensions, many Men, Women, and espe- 
cially Infants, may fall as \'ictims, whose 
Slain may exceed Herod's Cruel t\ . . . . " 

In 1726 King George I granted a patent for 
the making and selling of Dr. Bateman's 
Pectoral Drops. The patent was given not to 
a doctcjr. hut to a business man named Benja- 
min Okell. In the words of the patent,^ Okcll 
is lauded for having "found out and brought 
to Perfection, a new Chymicall Preparacion 
and Medicine . . . , working chiefly by 
Moderate Sweat and Urine, exceeding all 
other Medicines yet found out for the Rheuma- 
tism, which is highly u.seful under the Afflic- 
tions of the Stone, Gravell, Pains, Agues, and 
Hysterias . . . ." What the chemicals con- 
stituting his remedy were, the patentee did 
not vouchsafe to reveal. 

The practice of patenting had begun in 
royal prerogative. Long accustomed to grant- 
ing monopoly privileges for the development 
of new industries, the discovery of new lands, 
and the enrichment of court favorites, \arious 
monarchs in 17th-century Europe had given 
letters patent to proprietors of medical reme- 
dies which had gained popular acclaim. In 
France and the German States, this practice 
continued well through the 18th century. In 
England, where representative go\ernment 
had progressed at the expense of the personal 
prerogative of the sovereign. Parliament passed 
a law in 1624 aimed at curbing arbitrary 
actions like those of James I and Clharlcs I. 
The statute declared all monopolies void 
except those extended to the first inventor of a 
new process of manufacture. To such pioneers the 
king could grant his letters patent bestowing monopoly 
privileges for a period of 14 years. That the machinery 
set up by lliis law did not completely curb the inde- 
pendence of English sovereigns in the medical realm 
is indicated l)y the favor extended Dr. Weir, who suc- 
cessfully sought from James II a privileged position 
for Anderson's Scots Pills. This kingly grant is not 
included in the regular list, and the Glorious Revo- 
lution of 1688 brought an end to such an exercise of 

3 Benjamin Okell, "Pectoral drops for rheumatism, gravel, 
etc.," British patent 483, March 31, 1726. 



royal power without consent of Parliament. A list of 
patents in the medical field later published by the 
Commissioners of Patents * includes only six issued 
during the 17th century, four for baths and devices, 
one for an improved method of preparing alum, and 
one for makina; epsom salts. The first patent for a 
compound medicine was granted in 1711, and only 
two other proprietors preceded Benjamin Okell in 
.seeking this particular legal form of protection and 

As early as 1721, Bateman's Pectoral Drops were 
being regularly advertised in the London Mercury. 
The advertiseinents announced: "Dr. Bateman's 
Pectoral drops published at the Request of several 
Persons of Distinction from both Universities ..." 
The Drops, priced at "1 s. a Bottle," were "Sold 
Wholesale and Retail at the Printing-house and Pic- 
ture Warehouse in Bow Churchyard," and likewise 
"in most Cities and celebrated Towns in Great Brit- 
ain." "Each Bottle Seal'd with the Boar's Head." 
So stated the advertisement, which itself contained a 
crude cut of this Boar's Head seal.^ Elsewhere in this 
issue of the Mercury, we learn that John Cluer, printer, 
was the proprietor of the Bow Churchyard Ware- 
house. This same John Cluer, along with William 
Dicey and Robert Raikes, were named in the 1726 
patent as "the Persons concerned with the said In- 
ventor," Benjamin Okell, who, with him, should 
"enjoy the sole Benefit of the said Medicine." It was 
this partnership which w-as to find the field of nostrum 
promotion especially congenial and which was to play 
an important transatlantic role. Soon after securing 
their patent, the proprietors undertook to inform their 
countrymen about the remedy by issuing A short 
treatise of the virtues of Dr. Bateman's Pectoral Drops.^ 

It was the 18th century, and the essay was in fashion. 
The proprietors prepared a didactic introduction to 
their treatise, phrased in long and flowery sentences, 
in which modesty was not the governing tone. The 
arguments ran like this: that the "Universal Good of 
Mankind" should be the aim of "every private mem- 
ber"; that nothing is so conducive to this general wel- 

* British Patent OfTice, Patents for inventions: aliridgements of 
speiifiailions relating to medicine, surgery, and dentistry, 1620-1866, 
London, 1872. 

' London Mercury, London, August 19-26, 1721. 

' A short treatise of the virtues oj Dr. Bateman's Pectoral Drops, New 
York, 1731. A 36-page pamplilet preserved in the Library of 
the New York .Academy of Medicine. This is an American re- 
print of an English original, date unl<noun. 

fare as "health"; that no hazards to health are 
more direful than diseases such as "the Gout; the 
Rheumatism; the Stone; the Jaundice," etc., etc.; 
that countless men and women have succumbed to 
such afflictions either because they received no treat- 
ment or suffered wrong treatment at "the Hands of 
the Learned"; that no medicine is so sure a cure as 
that inexpensive remedy discovered as a result of great 
"Piety, Learning and Industry" by one "inspir'd with 
the Love of his Country, and the Good of Mankind," 
to wit. "Dr. bateman's Pectoral Drops." 

Then followed seven chapters treating the multi- 
tude of illnesses for which the Drops were a specific. 
Finalh', tlie pamphlet cited "some few, out of the 
many thousands of Certificates of Cures effected by 
these DROPS. . . ." Even so early was the testi- 
monial deemed a powerful persuader. 

No more could Okell, Cluer, Dicey, and Raikes 
escape competition than could the proprietors of 
other successful nostrums. In 1755 they went to 
court and won a suit for the infringement of their 
patent, but the damages amounted to only a shilling. 
Even after the patent expired, the tide of publicity 
flowed on.^ 

Competition was also lively in the 1740's among 
some half a dozen proprietors marketing a form of 
crude petroleum under the name of British Oil. 
Early in the decade Michael and Thomas Betton 
were granted a patent for "An Oyl extracted from a 
Flinty Rock for the Cure of Rheumatick and Scor- 
butick and other Cases." The source of the oil, 
according to their specifications, was rock lying just 
above the coal in mines, and this rock was puh-erized 
and heated in a furnace to extract all the precious 
healing oil.' This Betton patent aroused one of their 
rivals, Edmund Darby & Co. of Coalbrook-Dalc in 
Shropshire. Darby asserted that it was presumptuous 
of the Bettons to call their British ovl a new invention.' 

' /V broadside, issued in London, ca. 1750, advertising "Dr. 
Bateman's Drops," is preserved in the Warshaw Collection of 
Business Americana, New York. Later reprints of litis same 
broadside arc preserved in the private collection of Samuel 
Aker, Albany, New York, and in the Smitlisonian Institution. 

* Michael and Thomas Betton, "Oil for the cure of rheumatic 
and scorbutic affections," British patent 587, August 14, 1742. 

" Edmund Darby & Co., Directions for taking inwardty and using 
outwardly the company's true genuine and original British Oil; pre- 
pared by Edmund Darby & Co. at Coalbrook-Dale, Shropshire, 
ca. 1745. An 8-page pamphlet preserved in the Librar\- of the 
College of Physicians, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 



For over a century Darb\' and his predecessors had 
been marketing this self-same product, and it had 
proved to be "the one and only unrivall'd and most 
efficacious Remedy ever yet discovered, against the 
whole force of Diseases and Accidents that await 
Mankind. . . ." For the Bettons to appropriate 
the process and patent it — and even to claim in their 
advertising cures which really had been wrought b\- 
the Darby product— was scandaknis. Worse than 
that, said Darby, it was illegal, for in 1693 William 
III had granted a patent to "Martin Eele and two 
others at his Nomination for making the same Sort 
of Oyl from the same Sort of Materials." Evidence 
to substantiate his belief in the Betton perfidy was 
presented by Darby to George II, who had the mailer 
duly investigated.'" Being persuaded that Darby was 
right, the king and his councillors, in 1745, vacated 
the Betton patent. This victory seems not to have 
boomed the Darby interests, and this defeat seems not 
to have ruined the Bettons. During the succeeding 
century, the Betton patent was published and repub- 
lished in advertising, just as if it had never fallen 
afoul the law. From their battles with the Oil from 
Coalbrook-Dalc and other British Oils marketed by 
other proprietors, the Bettons emerged triumphant. 
In the years to come, patent or no, tlu- Bciions British 
Oil was to dominate the field. 

The year after the Bettons had secured Iheir [patent. 
another was granted to John Hooper of Reading for 
the manufacture of "Female Pills" bearing his name." 
Hooper was an apothecary, a man-midwife, and a 
shrewd fellow. This was the period in which the 
British Government was increasing its efforts to re- 
quire the patentee to furnish precise specifications 
with his application.'^ When Hooper was called upon 
to tell what was in his pills and how they were made, 
he replied by asserting that they were composed "Of 
the best purging stomatick and anti-hysterick ingredi- 
ents," which were formed into pills the size of a small 
pea. This satisfied the royal agents and Hooper went 
on about his business. In an advertisement of the 
same year, he was able to cite as a witness to his patent 
the name of the Archbishop of Canterbury." 

Much less taciturn than Hooper about the com|)osi- 
tion of his nostrum was Robert Turlington, who se- 
cured a patent in 1744 for "A spccifick balsam, called 

'"London Gazette, London, March 1, 1745. 
" John Hooper, "Pills," British patent 592, July 21, 1743. 
" E. Burke Inlow, The patent grant, Baltimore, 1950, p. 33. 
" Daily Advertiser, London, September 23, 1743. 

^>^^ THE ^7^^' 



(^ SALEM, MASS., ^jj 


^ rr^ 

Figure 3. — Labki, for .Stoughion's Elixir as manu- 
factured by Dr. Jos. Fryc of Salem, Massachusetts. 

(Courtesy, Essex Institute, Salem, Massachusetts.) 

the balsam of life." '■* The Balsam contained no less 
than 27 ingredients, and in his patent specifications 
Tiulington asserted that it would cure kidney and 
l)ladder stones, cholic, and inward weakness. He 
shortly issued a 46-page pamphlet in \\hich he greatly 
expanded the list.'^ In this appeal to 18th-century 
sensibilities, Turlington asserted that the "Author of 
Nature" has provided "a Remedy for every Malady." 
To find them, "Men of Learning and Genius" have 
"ransack'd" the "Animal, Mineral and Vegetable 
World." His own search had led Turlington to the 
Balsam, "a perfect Friend to Nature, which it strenijth- 
ens and corroborates when weak and declining, vivi- 
fies and enlivens the Spirits, mixes with the Juices and 
Fluids of the Body and gently infuses its kindly Influ- 
ence into Parts that are most in Disorder," 

Testimonials from those who had felt the kindly in- 
fluence took up most of the space in Turlington's pam- 
phlet. In these grateful acknowledgments to the po- 
tency of the patent medicine, the list of illnesses cured 
stretched far beyond the handful named in the patent 
specifications. Just as for Bateman's Pectoral Drops 

'* Robert Turlington, "A Spccifick balsam, called the balsam 
of life," British patent 596, January 18, 1744. 

" Robert Turlinijton, Turlington's Balsam oj Life, ca. M-M. A 
46-page pamphlet preserved in the Folger Shakespeare Library, 
Washington, D. C. 



and the Darby IjrancI of British Oil, workers of many 
occupations solemnly swore that they had received 
benefit. Most of them were humble people — -a por- 
ter, a carpenter, the wife of a gardener, a blanket- 
weaver, a gunner's mate, a butcher, a hostler, a bod- 
ice-maker. Some bore a status of greater distinction: 
there were a "Mathematical Instrument-Maker" and 
the doorkeeper of the East India Company. All were 
jubilant at their restored good health. 

The Balsam's well-nigh sovereign power could not 
protect it from one ailment of the times, competition. 
\'arious preparations of similar composition, like 
Friar's Balsam, already were on the market, but be- 
fore long even the Turlington name was trespassed 
upon, and the in\entors niece was forced to advertise 
that she alone had the true formula and that any per- 
son who took a dose of the spurious imitations being 
offered did so at great hazard to his life. 

A quarter of a century after the patenting of the 
Balsam, there appeared for sale to British ailing a 
remedy called Dr. Steer's Celebrated Opodeldoc. 
Dr. Steer is a shadowy rider of a vigorous steed, for 
although the doctor has left but a faint personal 
impact upon the historical record, Opodeldoc has 
pranced through medical history since the time of 
Paracelsus. This 16th-century continental chemist- 
physician, who introduced many mineral remedies 
into the materia medica, had coined the word 
"opodeldoc" to apply to various medical plasters. 
In the two ensuing centuries the meaning had 
changed, and the Pharmacopoeia Edinburgensis of 
1722 employed the term to designate soap liniment. 
It is presumed that Dr. Steer appropriated the 
Edinburgh formula, added ammonia, and marketed 
his proprietary version. In 1780, a Londoji paper 
carried an advertisement listing the difficulties for 
which the Opodeldoc was a "speedy and certain 
cure." These included bruises, sprains, burns, cuts, 
chillblains, and headaches. Furthermore, the remedy 
had been "found of infinite Use in hot Climates for 
the Bite of venomous Insects.'"* Dr. Steer seems 
not to have secured a patent for his slightly modified 
version of an official preparation. He died in 1781, 
but Opodeldoc, indeed Steer's Opodeldoc, went 
marching on.'" 

'" Daily Advertiser, London, February 18, 1780. 

"Broadsides, ca. 1810-1822, advertising "Steer's Chemical 
Opodeldoc, for bruises, sprains, rheumatism, etc., etc.," 
are preserved in the American Antiquarian Society, Worces- 
ter, Massachusetts; the Library of the New York Academy 
of Medicine; and the Warshaw Collection of Business Ameri- 
cana, New York. 

About the same time that Dr. Steer began adver- 
tising, newspaper promotion was launched in behalf 
of another remedy, called Dalby's Carminative. 
The inventor, J. Dalby, was a London apothecary, 
and his unpatented concoction was designed to cure 
"Disorders of the Bowels." One early advertiscinent " 
added details: "This Medicine, which is founded 
on just Medical Principles, has been long established 
as a most safe and effectual Remedy, generally afford- 
ing immediate Relief in the Wind, Cholocks [sic]. 
Convulsions, Purgings, and all those fatal Disorders 
in the Bowels of Infants, which carry off so great a 
number under the age of 2 years. It is also equally 
efficacious in gouty Pains in the Intestines, in Fluxes, 
and in the cholicky Complaints of grown Persons, 
so usual at this Season of the Year." Dalby, like 
Steer, failed long to survive the appearance of his 
medicine on the market. 

Such were the origins of the eight remedies which 
the Philadelphia pharmacists were to take account 
of in 1824. Besides these eight, two other patent 
medicines, both eli.xirs, were destined for roles of 
such special interest that a brief look at their English 
background is warranted. 

One of them. Daffy's Elixir, was the invention of 
a clergyman, Rev. Thomas Daffy soon after 1650. 
Daffy had his troubles during that troubled century, 
losing a pastorate because he offended a powerful 
Countess. When the rector first sought to minister 
unto men's bodies as well as to their souls is not known. 
According to a pamphlet issued in 1673, after the Rev. 
Daffy had passed from the scene, the formula had 
been "found out by the Providence of the Almighty." 
By this time a London kinsman of the inventor, 
named Anthony Daffy, was vending the remedy. 
The full name of the medicine, according to the 
pamphlet's title, was "Elixir Salutis: The Choice 
Drink of Health, or Health-Bringing Drink." and 
among the ailments for which it was effective were 
gout, the stone, colic, "ptissick," scurvy, dropsy, 
rickets, consumption, and "languishing and 

The Elixir Salutis proved immensely popular. It 
was too much to expect that .Anthony should hold the 
field uncontested; in the 1673 pamphlet one false 
fabricator was called by name, and in 1680 .\nthony 
advertised to warn against "diverse Persons" who were 
not only counterfeiting the medicine but spreading the 
malicious rumor that Anthony was dead. Early in 

" Daily Adtrrliser, London, January 



the new century, Catherine, the daughter of the orig- 
inal Rev. Daffy, insisted that she as well as her cousin 
Antliony had received the valuable formula. But it 
was Anthony's line that was to prove the more per- 
sistent. In 1743, one Susannah Daffy advertised the 
"Original and Famous Elixir," asserting that she had 
a brother Anthony who also knew the secret." This 
Anthony died in 1750 and willed the formula to his 
niece. But there were others outside the family who 
long had been making and selling the medicine. I'or 
example, the Bow Churchyard Warehouse advertised 
Daffy's Elixir in the London Mercury during 1721. 
Without hiding the fact that others were also com- 
pounding this "safe and pleasant Cordial . . . \vell- 
known throughout England, where it has been in 
great Use these 50 Years," the advertisement con- 
cluded: "Those who make tryal of That sold at this 
[Bow Churchyard] \\'arehouse will never buy any- 
where else." -° 

Although once lauded by a physician to King 
Charles II, Daffy's Elixir was never patented. The 
Elixir invented by Richard Stoughton was, in 1712. 
the second compound medicine to be granted a patent 
in England.^' Stoughton was an apothecary who had 
a shop at the Sign of the Unicorn in Southwark, Sur- 
rey. It was evidently competition, the constant bane 
of the medicine proprietor's life, that drove him to seek 
governmental protection. In his specifications he as- 
.serted that he had been making his medical mixture 
for over twenty years. Stoughton was less precise 
about his formula; indeed, he gave none, but was 
generous in indicating the remedy's name: "Stough- 
ton's Elixir Magnum Stomachii, or the Great Cordial 
Elixir, otherwise called the Stomatick Tincture or 
Bitter Drops." In a handbill, the apothecary did lip 
his hand to the extent of a.sserting that his Elixir con- 
tained 22 ingredients, but added that nobody but 
himself knew what they were. The dosage was gen- 
erous, 50 to 60 drops "in a glass of Spring water, Beer, 
Ale, Mum, Canary, White wine, with or without 
sugar, and a dram of brandy as often as you please." 
This, it was said, would cure any stomach ailment 

" Ibid., September 7, 1743. 

"> London Sfncury, London, August 19-26, 1721. 

2' Richard Stoughton, '"Restorative cordial and medicine," 
British patent 390, 1712. 

22 From a broadside, ca. 1750, advertising "Dr. Stoughton's 
Elixir Magnum Stomachum," preserved in the American Anti- 
quarian Society, Worcester, Mass. 

The inventor died in 1726. and his passing precipi- 
tated a perfect fury of coni])eiiti\e advertising. As in 
the case of Daffy's, there was a family feud. A son of 
.Stotighton and the widow of another son argued 
vituperously in print, each claiming sole possession of 
Richard's complicated secret, and each terming the 
other a scotmdrel. The daughter-in-law accused the 
son of financial chicanery, and the son condemned the 
daughter-in-law for having run through two hus- 
bands and for desperately wanting a third. In the 
midst of this running battle, a third party entered the 
lists as maker of the Elixir. She was no .Stoughton — 
though a widow — and her quaint claim for the pub- 
lic's consideration lay in this, that her late husband 
had infringed Stoughton's patent until restrained by 
the Lord C^hancellor. 

These ten medicines — Stoughton's and Daffy's 
Elixirs and the eight which the Philadelphia phar- 
macists were later to select — were by no means 
the only packaged remedies available to the 18th- 
century Englishman who resorted to self-dosage for 
his ills. Between 1711, when the first patent was 
granted for a compound medicine, and 1776, some 
75 items were patented in the medical field. ■' And, 
along with Godfrey's C!ordial and Daffy's Elixir, 
there were scores of other remedies for which no 
patents had been given. A list of nostrums published 
in The Gentleman s Magazine in 1748 totaled 202. and 
it was admitiedly incomplete.''' The proprietor with 
a patent might do his utmost to keep this badge of 
go\crnmental saitction before the public, but the 
distiitctioit was not great enough in such a crowded 
field to make things clear. The casual buyer could 
not keep track of which electuary had been granted 
a patent and which lozenge had not. They were all 
bottles and boxes upon the shelf. In use they .served 
the same purpose. One term arose in common speech 
to apply to both, and it was "patent medicine." 

English Patent Medicines Come to America 

When the first English packaged medicine, patented 
or unpatented, came to the New World, cannot be 
told. Some 17th-century prospective colonist, setting 
forth to face the hazards of life in Jamestown or 
Baltimore or Boston, must have packed a box of 
Anderson's Scots Pills or a bottle of Daflv's Elixir 

•' British Patent Office, op. cil. (sec footnote 4). 

2* Poplicola, "Pharmacopoeia empiriea or the list of nos- 
trums and empirics," The Ccnllrman^s .Magazine, 1748, vol. 
18, pp. 346-350. 



Figure 4. — Patrick Anderson. M. D.. fioin a box of 
Anderson's Scots Pills. From Wootton's Chronicles of 
pharmacy, London, 1910. {Smithsonian photo 44286-C) 

to bring along, but no record to suljstantiate such an 
incident has been encountered. It would seem that 
the use of English packaged remedies in America 
was most infrequent before 1700. Samuel Lee, 
answering questions posed from England in 1690 
about the status of medicine and pharmacy in Mas- 
sachusetts, mentions no patent medicines.-^ Neither 
does the 1698 account book of the Salem apothecary, 
Bartholomew Brown. ^^ 

In the Boston Xeivs-Letter for October 4, 1708, 
Nicholas Boone, at the Sign of the Bible, near the 
corner of School-House-Lane, advertised for sale : 
"D.\ffy"s Eli.xir Sahitis, very good, at four shillings 
and sixpence per half pint Bottle."' This may well 
be the first printed reference in America to an English 
patent medicine, and it certainly is the first news- 
paper advertisement for a nostrum. Preceding 
the News-Letter in colonial .\merica, there had been 
only one paper, the Puhlick Occurrences Both Foreign 

2' George L. Kittredge, "Letters to Samuel Lee and Samuel 
Sewall relating to New England and the Indians," Colonial 
Society of Massachusetts, Transactions, 1913, vol. 14, pp. 142-186. 

2» Bartholomew Brown, Apothecary day book, Salem [1698]; 
manuscript original preserved in the Library of the Essex 
Institute, Sairm, Massachusetts. 

and Domestic.- i his journal had lasted but a single 
issue. Then its printer had returned to England, 
where he took up the career of a patent medicine 
promoter, vending "the only Antfelical Pills against 
all Vapours, Hysterick and Melancholly Fits." The 
Xeivs-Letter had begun with the issue of April 27, 
1704, about 4 years before Boone's advertisement 
for Daffy's remedy made its appearance, but during 
that time, only one advertisement for anything at 
all in the medical field had appeared, and that was 
for a home-remedy book. The English physician, 
by Nicholas Culpeper, Doctor of Physick.^ This 
volume was also for sale at Boone's shop. 

Patent-medicine advertising in the Neivs-Letler prior 
to 1750 was infrequent. Apothecary Zabdiel Boyls- 
ton, who a decade later was to earn a role of esteem in 
medical history by introducing the inoculation for 
smallpo.x, announced in 1711 that he would sell "the 
true Lockyers Pills." ^ This was an unpatented 
remedy first concocted half a century earlier by a "li- 
censed physitian" in London. The next year Boylston 
repeated this appeal,'" and in the same advertisement 
listed other wares of the same type. He had two vari- 
eties, Golden and Plain, of the Spirit of Scur\y-Grass; 
he had "The Bitter Stomach Drops," worm potions for 
children; and a wonderful multipurpose nostrum, 
"the Royal Honey Water, an Excellent Perfume, good 
against Deafness, and to Make Hair grow. ..." 
The antecedents of this regal liquid are unknown. 
Boylston also annoimced for sale "The Best [Daffy's] 
Elixir Salutis in Bottles, or by the Ounce." This is a 
provocative listing. It may mean merely that the 
apothecary would break a bottle to sell a dose of the 
Elixir, which was often the custom. But it also may 
suggest that Boylston was making the ElLxir himself, 
or was having it prepared by a journeyinan. This 
latter interpretation would place Boylston well at the 
head of a long parade of American imitators of the old 
English patent medicines. 

Other such shipments of the packaged English 
remedies may have come to New England on the 
latest ships from London during the next .several 
decades, but they got scant play in the advertising 
columns of the small 4-page Boston News-Letter. 
Another reference to "Doctor .Anthony DafTey's Orig- 

-' Frank L. Molt, American journalism, N'cw 'S'oik. 1 141, 
pp. 9-10. 
28 Boston .Vews-Letler, Boston, February 9, 1708. 
2» /*!</., March 12, 1711. 
»» Ibid., March 24, 1712. 


4TfJT4— 59 12 


inal Elixer Salutis" occurs in 1720." Ten years later, 
Stoughton's Drops were announced for sale "by 
Public Vendue," along with feather beds, looking 
glasses, and leather breeches.'^ Nearly a decade more 
was to pass before Bateman's Pectoral Drops showed 
up in the midst of another general list, including 
cheese, and shoes, and stays.'' Not until 1748 did an 
advertisement appear in which several of the old 
English nostrums rubbed shoulders with each other. '^ 
Then Silvester Gardiner, at the Sign of the Unicorn 
and Mortar, asserted that "by appointment of the 
Patentee" he was enabled to sell "Genuine British 
Oyl, Bateman's Pectoral Drops, and Ilooper^s Female 
Pills, and the True Lockyer's Pills." 

Although nearly a century old, Anderson's Scots 
Pills were not cited for sale in the pages of the Boston 
News-Letter until August 23, 1750, two months after 
the much more recent Turlington's Balsam of Life 
first put in its appearance.''' During the same year, 
the British confusion over British Oil was reflected in 
America. Boden's and Darby's variety preceded the 
Betton brand into the Xeivs-Letter pages by a fort- 
night."* It was the latter, however, which was to \\u\ 
the day in Boston, for almost all subsequent adver- 
tising specified the Betton Oil. Godfrey's Cordial was 
first mentioned in 1761." Thus, of the ten old Eng- 
lish patent medicines which are the focus of the pres- 
ent study, eight had been advertised in the Boston 
News-Letter. The other two. Steer's Opodeldoc and 
Dalby's Carminative, did not reach the market before 
this colonial journal fell prey to the heightening ten- 
sions of early 1776. 

By the 1750's, the names of several old English 
nostrums were appearing fairly frequently in the 
advertising of colonial apothecaries, not only in Boston 
but in other colonial towns. In Williamsburg, for 
example, a steady increase occurs in the number of 
references and the length of the lists of the English 
patent medicines advertised in the Virginia Gazette 
from their first mention into the early 1760's.'' This 
journal — which later had competing issues by differ- 
ent editors — was launched in 1736, and the next 

" Ilwl., November 14, 1720. 
" IliiJ., March 12, IT.'iO. 
" rtiW., January 4, 1739. 
" Ibid., November 14, 1748. 
" /AiW., June 7, 1750. 
" Ibid., May 24, 1750. 
3" Ibid., December 31, 1761. 

" Lester J. Cappon and Stella F. Duff, Virginia Gazette index, 
1736-1780, Williamsburg, 1950, 2 vols. 

year George Gilmer advised customers that, in addi- 
tion to "all manner of Chymical and Galenical 
Medicines," he could furnish, at his old shop near 
the Governor's, "Bateman's Drops, Squires Elixir, 
Anderson's Pills."'" The other remedies appeared 
in due time, Stoughton's and Daffy's Elixirs in 1745, 
Turlington's Balsam in 1746, Godfrey's Cordial in 
1751, Hooper's Pills in 1752, and Betton's British 
Oil in 1770. 

A spot check of newspapers in Philadelphia and 
New York reveals a pattern quite similar. Residents 
of the middle colonies, like those to the north and 
the south, could buy the basic English brands, and 
it was during the 1750's that the notices of freshly- 
arrived supplies ceased to be rare in advertising 
columns and became a frequent occurrence. Thomas 
Preston, for example, announced to residents of 
Philadelphia in 1768 that he had just received a sup- 
ply of Anderson's, Hooper's, Bateman's, Betton's, 
Daffy's, Stoughton's, Turlington's, and Godfrey's 
remedies.*" Not only were these medicines for sale 
at apothecary shops, but they were sold by postmasters, 
goldsmiths, grocers, hair dressers, tailors, printers, 
booksellers, cork cutters, the post-rider between 
Philadelphia and Williamsburg, and by many co- 
lonial American physicians. 

It is a matter for comment that American news- 
paper advertising of the English packaged medicines 
was singularly drab. In the mother country, the 
proprietors or their heirs were faced with \igorous 
competition. It behooved them to sharpen up their 
adjectives and reach for their vitriol. In America the 
apothecary or merchant had no proprietary interest 
in any of the different brands of the imported medicines 
which were sold. Moreover, there was probably no 
great surplus of supply over demand in America as 
in Britain, so the task of selling the stock on hand 
was less difficult and required less vigorous promotion. 
Also, advertising space in the few American weeklies 
was more at a premium than in the more frequent 
and numerous English journals. \\"n\\ rare exceptions, 
therefore, the old Ensjlish patent medicines were 
merely mentioned by name in .American advertising. 
Seldom did one receive the individual attention 
accorded by Samuel Emlen to Godfrey's Cordial in 
Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette for June 26, 
1732. The ad ran like this: 

"Dr. Godfrey's General Cordial. So imiversallv 

" Virginia Gazette, Williamsburg, May 27, 1737. 

*" Pennsylvania Gazelle, Philadelphia, December 1, 1768. 






V r THE 


O F 



Ihe Nature of the Diftemperr They 

(MTc, and the Manner of Their Operation. 

rublifr.'J by the K I N G'$ Letter Patents undS 
the Great Stal ot CrtJt Britain. 

The Seal of fe, 

CJ each Bottle. 

To be Soli ouly b^ Jamti Wallait-, in AV»-Jork 
Reprinted 1/ J Fitfr /--^r, ia Sn^Ytrt, 

- ~ ~'*- 

Figui-e 5. — Pamphlet, Dated 1731, on Behalf of 
Bateman's Pectoral Drops. It was published by 
John Peter Zenger in New York. Original preserved 
in the New York Academy of Medicine Library. 
{Smithsonian photo 44286-Z).) 

approved of for the Cholick, and all Manners of 
Pains in the Bowels, Flu.xes, Fevers, Small-Po.\, 
Measles, Rheumatism, Coughs, Colds, and Restless- 
ness in Men, Women, and Children; and particularly 
for several Ailments incident to Child-bearing 
Women, and Relief of youna; Children in breeding 
their Teeth." 

Emlen's venturesomeness may have lain in the fact 
that he was not onlv a retailer, but also an agent for 

the British manufacturer, for he cited the 
names of those who sold Godfrey's Cordial 
in nearby towns. Even at that, this appeal, 
consisting merely of a list of illnesses, lacked 
the of contemporary English 
nostrum advertising. In the whole span 
of the Boston Neivs-Lelter, beginning in 1704, 
it was not until 1763 that a bookstore 
pulled out the stops with half a column of 
lively prose in behalf of Dr. Hill's four un- 
patented nostrums." It seems a safe as- 
sumption that not only the medicines but 
the verbiage were imported from London, 
where Dr. Hill had been at work endeavor- 
ing to restore a Greek secret which "con- 
\'erts a Glass of Water into the Nature and 
Quality of Asses Milk, with the Balsamick 
.Addition. . . ." 

The infrequency of extended fanciful 
promotion in behalf of the old English 
nostrums in American newspaper adver- 
tising may have been compensated for to 
some degree in broadside and pamphlet. 
.■\ critic of the medical scene in New York 
in the early 1750's asserted that physicians 
used patent medicines which they learned 
al)out from "London quack bills." This 
doctor complained, these were often their 
only reading matter.''" Such a judgment 
may be too severe. Certainly it is difficult 
to validate today. Such pamphlets and 
broadsides do appear in Ainerican archival 
collections. The Historical .Society of Penn- 
sylvania contains a 2-page Turlington 
broadside,^' while the Folgcr Shakespeare 
Library in Washington has an earlier 46- 
page Turlington pamphlet with testimonials 
reaching out toward America.** One such certificate 
came from "a sailor before the mast, on board the 
ship Britannia in the New York trade," and another 
cited a woman living in Philadelphia who gave 
thanks for the cure of her dropsy. 

A broadside in the Warshaw Collection touting 
Bateman's Drops noted that "extraordinan.' demands 

*' Boston Ntws-Lttter, Boston, November 24, 1763. 

" James J. Walsh, History oj the Medical Society oj the State of 
.Xew Tork, New York, 1907. 

" Robert Turlington, "Turlington's Balsam of Life," 1755- 
1757. A later reprint of this same circular is prcser\-ed in the 
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana. 

** Turlington's Balsam of Lije (sec footnote 15). 



Iia\c been made lor Maryland, \e\v-Vork, Jamaica, 
etc. where their virtues have been truely experienced 
with the greatest satisfaction." *^ That such promo- 
tional items are extremely rare does not mean they 
were not abundant in the mid-1 8ih century, for this 
type of printed mailer, then as now, was likely to be 
looked at and thrown away. A certain amount of 
nostrum literature was undoubtedly imported from 
Britain. For example, in 17.53 apothecary James Car- 
ter of VV'illiamsburg ordered from England "3 Quire 
Stoughton's Directions" along with "}^ Groce Stough- 
ton Vials." ■'" broadsides or circulars served a 
twofold purpose. Not only did they {)romote the 
medicine, but they actually served as the Lilx-ls for the 
bottles. Early packages of these patent medicines 
which have been discovered indicate that paper labels 
were seldom applied to the glass bottles; instead, the 
Iwttle was tightly wrapped and sealed in one of these 

American imprints scekint; lo [iromote the English 
patent medicines were certainly rare. The most sig- 
nificant example may be found in the Library of the 
New York Academy of Medicine. ^^ In 1731 James 
Wallace, a New York merchant, became American 
agent for the sale of Dr. Batenian's Pectoral Drops. 
To help him with his new \enture, Wallace took a 
copy of the London pronunlonal pamphlet to a New 
York printer to be reproduced. The printer was 
John Peter Zenger, not yet an editor and three years 
awa%- from the events which were to link his name in- 
extricably with the concept of the freedom of the 
press. This 1731 pamphlet may well have been the 
earliest work on any medical theme to be printed in 
New York.'* 

Now and then a physician might frown on his fel- 
lows for reading such literature and prescribing such 
remedies, but he was in a minority. Colonial doctors, 
by and large, had no qualms about employing the 
packaged medicines. It was a doctor who first adver- 
tised Anderson's Pills and Bateman's Drops in Wil- 
liamsburg; *" it was another, migrating from England 

" "Dr. Bateman's Drops" (see footnote 7). 

'"James Carter, Apothecary account book, Williamsburg 
[1752-1773]. Manuscript original preserved at Colonial Wil- 
liamsburg, Virginia. 

" A short treatise of the virtues of Dr. Bateman's Pectoral Drops 
(see footnote 6). 

*' Gertrude L. Annan, "Printing and medicine," Bulletin of 
llir Medical Library Association, March 1940, vol. 28, p. 155. 

*" Wyndham B. Blanton, Medicine in Virginia in the eighteenth 
century, Richmond, Virginia, 1931, pp. 33-34. 

to the \'irginia frontier, who founded a town and 
dosed those who came to dwell therein with Bateman's 
Drops, Turlington's Balsam, and other patent 

Complex Formulas and Distinctive Packages 

Indeed, the status of medical knowledge, medical 
need, and medical ethics in the 18lh century per- 
mitted patent medicines to fit quite comfortably into 
the environment. As to what actually caused dis- 
eases, man knew little more than had the ancient 
Greeks. There were many theories, however, and the 
speculations of the learned often sound as quaint in 
retrospect as do the cocky assertions of the quack bills. 
Pamphlet warfare among physicians about their con- 
flicting theories achieved an acrimony not surpas.sed 
by the competing advertisers of Stoughton's Elixir. 
The aristocratic practitioners of England, the London 
College of Physicians, refused to expand their ranks 
even at a time when there were in the city more than 
1,300 serious cases of illness a day to every member of 
the College. The masses had to look elsewhere, and 
turned to apothecaries, surgeons, quacks, and self- 
treatment.^' The lines were drawn cvvn less sharply 
in colonial .America, and there was no group to re- 
semble the London College in prestige and authority. 
Medical laissez-faire prevailed. "Practitioners are 
laureated gratis with a title feather of Doctor," wrote 
a New Englander in 1690. "Potecaries, surgeons & 
midwifes are dignified acc[ording] to" '^ 
Such an atmosphere gave free rein to self-dosage, 
either with an herbal mbcture found in the pages of a 
home-remedy book or with Daffy's ElLxir. 

In the 18th century, drugs were still prescribed that 
dated back to the dawn of medicine. There were 
Theriac or Mithridatum, Hiera Picra (or Holy Bit- 
ters), and Terra Sigillata. Newer botanicals from 
the Orient and the New World, as well as the ''chymi- 
cals" reputedly introduced by Paracelsus, found their 
way into these ancient formulas. Since the ])recise 
action of individual drugs in relation to gi\en ailments 
was but hazily known, there was a tendency lo blanket 
assorted possibilities by mixing numerous ingredients 
into the same formula. The formularies of the Mid- 

™ Maurice Bear Gordon, Aesculapius comes to the colonies, \'ent- 
nor, New Jersey, 1949, p. 39. 

'■' Fielding H. Garrison, An introduction lo the history of medicine, 
Philadelphia, 1924, pp. 405-408; and Richard H. .Shryock. 
The development of modern medicine. New York, 1947, pp. 51-54. 

" Kittredge, op. cit. (footnote 25). 



die Ages encouraged this so-called "polypharmacy." 
For example the Antidularium Nkolai, written about 
A. D. 1100 at Salerno, described 38 ingredients in 
Confectio Adrianum, 35 ingredients in Confectio Ata- 
nasia, and 48 ingredients in Confectio Esdra. Thcriac 
or Mithridatum grew in complexity luuil hy the 16th 
century it had some 60 different ingredients. 

It was in this tradition of complex mixtures tliat 
most of the patent medicines may be placed. Richard 
Stoughton claimed 22 ingredients for his Elixir, and 
Robert Turlington, in his patent specification, named 
27. Although other proprietors had shorter lists or 
were silent on the number of ingredients, a major 
part of their secrecy really lay in ha\ing complicated 
formulas. Even though rivals might detect the major 
active ingredients, the original proprietor could claim 
that only he knew all the elements in their proper 
proportions and the secret of their blending. 

Not only in complexity did the patent medicines 
resemble regular pharmaceutical compounds of the 
18th century. In the nature of their composition thcv 
were blood brothers of preparations in the various 
pharmacopoeias and formularies. Indeed, there was 
much borro\\ing in both directions. An official for- 
mula of one year might blossom out the next in a 
fancy bottle bearing a proprietor's name. At the 
same time, the essential recipe of a patent medicine, 
deprived of its original cognomen and given a Latin 
name indicative of its composition or therapeutic na- 
ture, might suddenly appear in one of the official 

For example, the formula for Daffy's Elixir was 
adopted by the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis in 1721 under 
the title of "Elixir Salutis" and later by the Pharma- 
copoeia Edinhurghensis as "Tinctura sennae composita" 
(Compound Senna Tincture). Similarly the essential 
formula for Stoughton's Elixir was adopted by the 
Pharmacopoeia Edinhurghensis as early as 1762 under 
the name of "Elixir Stomachium," and later as "Com- 
pound Tincture of Gentian" (as in the Pharmacopoeia 
of the Massachusetts Medical Society of 1808). Only two 
years after Turlington obtained his "Balsam of Life"' 
patent, the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis introduced a rec- 
ipe under the title of "Balsamum Traumaticum" 
which eventually became Compound Tincture of Ben- 
zoin, with the synonym Turlington's Balsam. On the 
other hand, none of these early English patent medi- 
cines, including Stoughton's Elixir and Turlington's 
Balsam, offered anything new, except possibly new 
combinations or new proportions of ingredients already 
widely cmplo\cd in medicine. Formulas similar in 

[«•: 'V ;..-■«• 


■--'■' . .y.t, ST ■ 

Figure 6. — BoTiLKS of B,\tem.\n"s Pectoral Drops, 
igth century (left) and early 20lh century (right), 
from the Samuel Akcr, David and George Kass 
collection, Albany, New York. {Smithsonian photo 


composition to those patented or marketed as "new 
inventions" can in every case be found in such 17th- 
century pharmacopoeias as William Salmon's Pharma- 
copoeia Londinensis. 

Whatever similarities existed between the canons m 
regular pharmacy and the composition of patent med- 
icines, there was a decided difference in the methods 
of marketing. Although patent medicines were often 
prescription items, they did not have to be. The way 
they looked on a shelf made them so easily recog- 
nizable that even the most loutish illiterate could tell 
one from another. As the nostrimi proprietor did so 
much to pioneer in advertising psychologs', so he also 



blazed a trail with respect to distinctive packaging. 
The popularity of the old English remedies, year in 
and year out, owed much to the fact that though the 
ingredients inside might vary (unbeknownst to the 
customer), the shape of the bottle did not. This was 
the reason proprietors raised such a hue and cry about 
counterfeiters. The secret of a formula might, if only 
to a degree, be retained, but simulation of bottle de- 
sign and printed wrap[)er was easily accomplished, 
and to the average customer these externals were the 

This fundamental fact was to be recognized by the 
committee of Philadelphia pharmacists in 1824. "\Ve 
are aware" the committeemen reported, "that long 
custom has so strongly associated the idea of the gen- 
uineness of the Patent medicines, with particular 
shapes of the vials that contain them, and with certain 
printed labels, as to render an alteration in them an 
affair of difficulty. Many who use these preparations 
would not purchase British Oil that was put up in a 
conical vial, nor Turlington's Balsam in a cylindrical 
one. The stamp of the excise, the king's royal patent, 
the seal and coat of arms which are to prevent coim- 
terfeits, the solemn caution against quacks and im- 
posters, and the certified lists of incredible cures, [all 
these were printed on the bottle wrappers] have not 
even now lost their influence." Nor were they for 
years to come. 

Thus after 1754 the Tmlingion Balsam bottle was 
pear-shaped, with sloping shoulders, and molded into 
the glass in crude raised capitals were the proprietor's 
name and his claim of the kings royal patent.'' 
Turlington during his life had made one modification. 
He explained it in a broadside, saying that "to pre- 
vent the \'illainy of some Persons who buying up my 
empty Bottles, have basely and wickedly put therein a 
vile spurious Counterfeit-Sort," he had changed the 
bottle shape. The date molded into the glass on his 
supply of new genuine Iwttles was January 26, 1754.^* 
This was, perhaps, a very fine point of difference from 
the perspective of the average customer, and in any 
case the bottle was hidden under its paper wrapper. 

"* "From past times an original bottle of Turlington's Balsam," 
Chemist and Druggist, September 23, 1905, vol. 67, p. 525; 
Stewart Schackne, "Bottles," American Druggist, October 1933, 
vol. 88, pp. 78-81, 186-188, 190, 194; Frederick Fairchild Sher- 
man, "Some early bottles," Antiques, vol. 3, pp. 122-123; and 
Stephen Van Rensselaer, Early American bottles and flasks, Peter- 
borough, New Hampshire, 1926. 

" Waldo R. Wedel and George B. Griffenhagen, "An Eng- 
lish balsam among the Dakota aborigines," American Journal of 
Pharmacy, December 1954, vol. 126, pp. 409-415. 

The British Oil bottle was tall and slender and it 
rested on a square base. Godfrey's Cordial came in a 
conical \ial witli sleep-pitched sides, the cone's point 
replaced by a narrow mouth.''' Bateman's Pectoral 
Drops were packaged in a more common "phial" — a 
tall and slender cylindrical bottle.'® Dalby's Car- 
minative came in a bottle not unlike the Godfrey's 
Cordial bottle, except that Dalby's was impressed 
with the inscription dalby's carminativ." Steer's 
Oi)odeldoc bottles were cylindrical in shape, with a 
wide mouth; some apparently were inscril)ecl opo- 
deldoc while others carried no such inscri|)tion. .^t 
least one brand (jf Daffy's Elixir was packaged in a 
globular Ijottle, according to a picture in a 1743 ad- 
vertiseinent.'* Speculation regarding the size and 
shape of the Stoughton bottle varies.'^ At least one 
Stoughton bottle was described as "Round amber. 
Tapered from domed shoulder to base. Long 5 in. 
bulged neck. Square flanged mouth. Flat" ^ 

Hooper's and .Xnderson's Scots Pills were, of course, 
not packaged in bottles (at least not the earliest), but 
were instead sold in the typical oval chip-wood pill 
boxes. On the lid of the box containing Hooper's 
Pills was stamped thi.^ inscription: dr. john hooper's 


592. So far no example or illustration of Anderson's 
Scots Pills has been found. .\t least one producer, 
it will be remembered (page 157), .sealed the box in 
black wax bearing a lion rampant, three mallets ar- 
gent, and the bust of Dr. Anderson. 

Source of Supply Sev'ered 

On September 29, 1774, John Boyd's "medicinal 
store" in Baltimore followed the time-honored custom 
of advertising in the Maryland Gazelle a fresh supply 
of medicines newly at hand from England. To this 
intelligence was added a warning. Since nonimpor- 
tation agreements bv colonial merchants were immi- 

*^ .Sherman, np. cit. (footnote 53). 

*" .Schackne, op. cit. (footnote 53). 

" George S. and Helen McKearin, American glass, Ne\v- ^■ork, 

'*' Daily Advertiser, London, October 29, 1743. 

™ George Griffenhagen, "Stodgy as a Stoughton bottle," 
Journal of the .Xmerican Pharmaceutical Association, Practical Phar- 
macy Edition, January 1956, vol. 17, p. 20; Mitford B. Mathews, 
ed., A dictionary of Americanisms on historical principles, Chicago, 
1951, 2 vols.; Bertha KitchcU Whyte, Wisconsin heritage, Boston, 
1954; Charles Earlc Funk, Heavens to Betsy/ and other curious say- 
ings, New York, 1955. 

'"' James H. Thompson, B'ttcrs bottles, Watkins Glen, Xcw 
York, 1947, p. 60. 




'/ ^\^tllir, 


Parts w, 


C»— ^ 


nent, which ijade fair to malce goods hard to get, 
customers would be wise to make their purchases be- 
fore the supply became exhausted. Boyd's prediction 
was sound. The Boston Tea Party of the previous 
December had evoked from Parliament a handful of 
repressive measures, the Intolerable .'\cts, and at the 
time of Boyd's advertisement, the first Continental 
Congress in session was .soon to declare that all im- 
ports from Great Britain should be halted. 

This Baltimore scare advertising may well have been 
heeded by Boyd's customers, for trade with the mother 
country had been interrupted before; in the wake of 
the Townshend Acts in 1767, when Parliament had 
placed import duties on \'arious products, including 
tea, .Xmerican merchants in various cities had entered 
into nonimportation agreements. Certainly, there 


Figure 7- — Bottles of British Oil, igth and early 
20th century, from the Samuel Aker, David and 
George Kass collection, .Albany, New York. {Smith- 
sonian photo 44201 -fl.) 

was a decided decrease in the Boston advertising of 
patent medicines received from London. With re- 
spect to imports of any kind, it became necessary to 
explain, and one merchant noted that his goods were 
"the Remains of a Consignment receiv'd before the 
Non-Importation Agreement took place." "' \Vhen 
Parliament yielded to the financial pressure and abol- 
ished all the taxes but the one on tea, nonimportation 
collapsed. This fact is reflected in an advertisement 
listing nearly a score of patent medicines, including 

"' Massachusetts Gazette, Boston, December 21, 1769. 

the remedies of 'Jurlington, Bateinan, 
the Bettons, Anderson, Hooper, God- 
frey, Daffy, and Stoughton, as "Jusc 
come to Hand and Warranted Genu- 
ine" on Gaptain Dane's ship, "dircctK 
from the Original Warehouse kept by 
DICEY and OKELL in Bow Street, 
London." "- 

The days of such ample importations, 
howe\'er, were doomed, as commerce 
fell prey to the growing revolutionary 
agitation. The last medical advertise- 
ment in the Massachusetts Gazette and 
Boston Weekly News-Letter, before its de- 
mise the following February, appeared 
five months after the Battles of Lexing- 
ton and Concord."' The apothecary at 
the Sign of the Unicorn was frank about 
the situation. He had imported fresh 
drugs and medicines every fall and 
spring up to the preceding June. He 
still had some on hand. Doctors and 
others should be advised. 

Implicit in the advertisement is the 
suggestion that the securing of new sup- 
plies under the circumstances would be 
highly uncertain. That pre-war slocks 
did hold out, sometimes well into the 
war years may be deduced from a Williamsljurg 
apothecary's advertisement." W. Carter took the 
occasion of the ending of a partnership with his 
brother to publish a sort of inventory. Along with 
the "syrup and ointment pots, all neatly painted and 
lettered," the crabs eyes and claws, the Spanish flies, 
he listed a dozen patent medicines, including the 
remedies of Anderson, Bateman, and Daffy. 

Even the British blockade failed to prevent patent 
medicines frotn being shipped from wholesaler to re- 
tailer. In the account book of a Salem, Massachusetts, 
apothecary,*' the following entry appears: 

4 cases Containing 

I Dozn Bottles Godfreys Cordial 
5 Dozn Do Smaller Turling Bals 
8 Dozn Bettons British Oil 
6'/^ Dozn Hoopers Female Pills 
4 Dozn nd 8 Boxs And. Pills 





Figure 8. — Daley's Carminative, two sides of a 
bottle from the McKearin collection, Hoosirk Falls, 
New York. {Smithsonian photo 44287-C.) 

SALEM APRIL 8th 1777 

The above 13 packages and 4 cases 

of medicines are ship'd on Board 

the Slocjp Called the Two Brothers 

Sam! West Master. On Account 

and [illegible word] of Mr. 

Oliver Smith of Boston Apothecary 

and to him consigned. I he cases 

are unmarked being ship'd at 

Night. Error Excepted Jon. 


The sloop was undoubtedly one of the small coastal 
type ships employed by the colonists, and the British 
blockade required such ominous precautions as "un- 
marked cases" and "ship'd by Night." 

«2/6iW., April 23, 1771. 
" Itnd., September 7, 1775. 

"* Virginia Gazelle (edited by Dixon and Nicholson), Williams- 
burg, June 12, 1779. 

'^ Jonalhon Waldo, .Xpothccary account book, Salem, Massa- 
chusetts [1770-1790]. Manuscript original preserved in the 
Library of the Essex Institute, Salem, Mass. 



Such random assortments of prewar importations 
could hardly have met the American demand for the 
old English patent medicines created by a half century 
of use. Doubtless many embattled farmers had to 
confront their ailments without the accustomed Eng- 
lish-made remedies. However, as early as the 1750s, 
at least two of the English patent medicines, Daffy's 
and Stoughton's Elixirs, were being compounded in 
the colonies and packaged in empty bottles shipped 
from England. Apothecary Carter of Williamsburg 
ordered sizable quantities of empty "Stoughton Vials" 
from 1752 through 1770, and occasionally ordered 
empty DafTy's bottles.*^ In 1774 apothecary Waldo 
of Salem noted the receipt from England of "1 Groce 
Stoughton Phials" and "1 Groce Daffy's Do." " 
Joseph Stansbury, who sold china and glass in Phila- 
delphia, ad\ertised '"Daffy's Elixir Bottles" a week 
after the Declaration of Independence."* Stoughton's 
and Daffy's Elixirs, therefore, were being compounded 
bv the .\merican apothecaries during the Re\'olution- 
arv War. Formulas for both preparations were offi- 
cial in the London and Edinburgh pharmacopoeias, 
as well as in unofficial formularies like Quincy's 
Pharmacopoeias officinalis extemporanea of 1765. .Ml 
these publications were used widely by American 
physicians and apothecaries. 

It is not known how extensively, during the struggle 
for independence, this custom was adopted for Eng- 
lish patent medicines other than Daffx's and Stousjh- 
ton's. However, imitation of Englisti patent medi- 
cines in America was to increase, and it contributed 
to the chaos that beset the nostrum field when the war 
was o\er and the original articles from England were 
once more available. And they were bought. An 
advertisement at a time when the fighting was over 
and peace negotiations were still imder way indicated 
that the Baltimore post office had half a dozen of the 
familiar English remedies for sale."" Two years later 
a New York store turned to tortured rhyme to convey 
the same message:'" 

Medicines approv'd by royal charter, 
James, Godfry, Anderson, Court-plaster, 
With Keyser's. Hooper's Loekycr's Pills, 
.\nd Honev Balsam Doctor Hill's; 

*'' Carter, op. cil. (footnote 46). 

«' Waldo, op. cil. (footnote 65). 

«" Pennsylvania Gazette, Philadelphia, July 11, 1776. 

«>' .Maryland Journal and Baltimore Gazette, Baltimore, October 
29, 1782. 

'•" .\av York Packet and the American Advertiser, New York, Octo- 
ber 11, 1784. 

Bateman and DafTy, Jesuits drops. 
And all the Tinctures of the shops, 
As Stoughton, Turlington and Grenough, 
Pure British Oil and Haerlem Ditto. . . . 

Later in the decade, the Salem apothecary, Jona- 
thon Waldo, made a list of "An as.sortment [of patent 
medicines] Usually Called For." The imported brand 
of Turlington's Balsam, Waldo staled, was "very dear" 
at 36 shillings a dozen, adding that his "own" was 
w'orth but 15 shillings for the same quantity. The 
English original of another nostrum, Essence of Pep- 
permint, he listed at 18 shillings a dozen, his own at 
a mere 10/6.'' Despite the price differential, impor- 
tations continued. A Beverly, Massachusetts, drug- 
gist, Robert Rantoul, in 1799 ordered from London 
filled boxes and bottles of Anderson's Pills, Bateman's 
Drops, Steer's Opodeldoc, and Turlington's Balsam, 
along with the empty vials in which to put British Oil 
and E.ssence of Peppermint. "■ For decades thereafter 
the catalogs of wholesale drug firms continued to 
specify two grades of various patent medicines for 
sale, termed "English'' and "American," "true" and 
"common," or "sjenuine" and "imitation." "' This 
had not been the case in patent medicine listings of 
18th-century catalogs."^ 

In buying .Anderson's and Bateman's remedies from 
London in 1799, Robert Rantoul of Massachusetts 

"' Waldo, op. cil. (footnote 65). 

"- Robert Rantoul, .Xpothecai y daybooks, 3 vols., Beverly, 
Masiiachusetts [17961812]. Manuscript originals preserved in 
the Beverly Historical .Society. Also see Robert W. Lovclt, 
'•Squire Rantoul and his drug store,'' Bulletin oj the Business 
Historical Society, ]une 1951, vol. 25, pp. 99-114. 

•3 Joel and Jotham Post, A catalogue of drugs, medicines & chem- 
icals, sold wholesale & retail, by Joel and Jotham Post, druggists, 
corner of Walt and William-Streets, New York, 1804; Massachu- 
setts College of Pharmacy, Catalogue of the materia medica and of 
the pharmaceutical pteparations, with the uniform prices of the Massa- 
chusetts College of Pharmacy, Boston, 1828; George \V. Carpenter, 
Essays on some of the most important articles of the materia medica . . . 
to which is added a catalogue of medicines, surgical instruments, etc., 
Philadelphia, 1834. 

"*John Dunlap, Catalogus medicinarum et pharmacorum, Phila- 
delphia, 1771; John Day, Catalogue of drugs, chymicat and galenical 
preparations, shop furniture, patent rredicines, and surgical instruments 
sold by John Day and Company, druggists and chymists in second- 
street, Philadelphia, 1771; George Griffenhagcn, "The Day- 
Dunlap 1771 pharmaceutical catalog," American Journal of 
Pharmacy, September 1955, vol. 127, pp. 296-302; also The .\nv 
i'ork Physician and American Medicine, May 1956, vol. 46, pp. 
42-44; Smith and Bartlett, Catalogue of drugs and medicines, in- 
struments and utensils, dyestuffs, groceries, and painters' colours, im- 
ported, prepared, and sold, by Smith and Bartlett, at their druggists store 
and apothecaries shop, Boston, 1795. 



Figure g. — Godfrey's Cordial, 19th-century bottles 
from the Samuel Aker, David and George Kass 
collection, Albany, New York. {Smithsonian photo 
4420 1 -C.) 

spccilicd that they be secured from Dicey, ft will be 
remembered that 60 years earlier William Dicey, John 
Clucr, and Robert Raikcs were the group of entrepre- 
neurs who had aided Benjamin Okell in patenting the 
pectoral drops bearing Bateman's name. Then and 
throughout the century, this concern continued to 
operate a warehouse in the Bow Churchyard, Cheap- 
side, London. In 1721, it was known as the "Printing- 
house and Picture Warehouse" of John Cluer, prin- 
ter,"' but by 1790, it was simply the "Medicinal Ware- 
house" of Bow Churchyard, Cheapside. This address 
lay in the center of the London area whence came 
nearly all of the British goods exported to America.'* 
It had been the location of many merchants who had 
migrated to New England in the 17th century, and 
these newcomers had done business with their erst- 

while associates who did not leave home. Thus were 
started trade channels which continued to run. The 
Bow Churchyard Warehouse may have been the major 
exporter of English patent medicines to colonial Amer- 
ica, although others of importance were located in the 
same London region, in particular Robert Turlington 
of Lombard Street and Francis Newbcry of St. Paul's 
Churchyard. The significance of the fact that there 
were key suppliers of patent medicines for the Amer- 
ican market lies in the selection process which resulted. 
Out of the several hundred patent medicines which 
18th-century Bril^iiii had available, Americans dosed 
themselves with that score or more which the major 
exporters shipped to colonial ports. 

Not only did the Bow Churchyard Warehouse firm 
have Bateman's Drops. It will be remembered that 
in 1721 they advertised that they were preparing 
DaflV's Elixir. In 1743, they and Newbery were 
made exclusive vendors of Hooper's Pills." By 1750, 
the firm was also marketing British Oil, Anderson's 
Pills, and Stoughton's Elixir.'* Turlington in 1755 
was selling not only his Balsam of Life, but was also 
vending Daffy's Elixir, Godfrey's Cordial, and 
Stoughton's Elixir."^ After the tension of the Town- 
shend Acts, it was the Bow Churchyard Warehouse 
which supplied a Boston apothecary with a large sup- 
ply of nostrums, including all the eight patent medi- 
cines then in existence of the ten with which this dis- 
cussion is primarily concerned.*" On November 29, 
1770, the Virginia Gazette (edited by Purdie and Dixon) 
reported a shipment, including Bateman's, Hooper's, 
Betton's, Anderson's, and Godfrey's remedies, just re- 
ceived "from Dr. Bateman's original wholesale ware- 
house in London" (the Bow Churchyard Warehouse). 
When Dalby's Carminative and Steer's Opodeldoc 
came on the market in the 1780's, it was Francis New- 
bery who had them for sale. Both the Newbery and 
Dicey (Bow Churchyard Warehouse) firms continued 
to operate in the post-Revolutionary years. Thus, it 
was no accident but rather \igorous commercial pro- 
motion over the decades, that resulted in the most 
popular items on the Dicey and Newbery lists appear- 
ing in the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy pam- 
phlet published in 1824. .'\nd although the same old 
firms continued to export the same old medicines to 
the new L'niled States, the back of the business was 

" London Mercury, London, August 19-26, 1721. 
" Bernard Bailyn, The New England metchanis in the seventeenth 
century, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1955, pp. 35-36. 

" Daily Advertiser, London, September 23, 1743. 

'* "Dr. Bateman's Drops" (sec footnote 7). 

" Turlington, op. cil. (footnote 15). 

™ Massachusetts Gazette, Boston, December 21, 1769. 



Ijiokcn. The imitation spurred by wartime necessity' 
became the post-war pattern. 

The key recipes were to be found in formula books. 
Beginning in the 1790's, even American editions of 
John Wesley's Primitive physic included formulas for 
Daffy's, Turlington's, and Stoughton's remedies which 
the founder of Methodism had introduced into Eng- 
lish editions of this guidebook to health shortly before 
his death.**' 

The homemade versions, as Jonathon Waldo had 
recorded (see p. 171), were about half as costly. The 
state of affairs at the turn of the new century is illus- 
trated in the surviving business papers of the Beverly 
druggist, Robert Rantoul. In 1799 he had imported 
the British Oil and Essence of Peppermint bottles. 
In 1802 he reordered the latter, specifying that they 
should not have molded in the glass the words "by 
the Kings Patent." Rantoul wrote a formula for this 
nostrum in his formula book, and from it he filled 66 
botdes in December 1801 and 202 bottles in June 
1803. About the same time he began making and 
bottling Turlington's Balsam, ordering bottles of two 
sizes from London. His formula book contains these 
entries: "Jany 4th, 1804 filled 54 small turlingtons 
with 37 oz. Balsam," and "Jany 20th, 1804 filled 144 
small turlingtons with 90,'^ oz. Balsam and 9 Large 
Bottles with 8K oz." ^'' 

Two decades later the imitation of the English pro- 
prietaries was even bigger business. In 1821 William 
A. Brewer became apprenticed to a druggist in Bos- 
ton. A number of the old English brands, he recalled, 
were still imported and sold at the time. But his ap- 
prenticeship years were heavily encumbered with 
duties involving the American versions. "Many, very 
many, days were spent," Brewer remembered, "in 
compounding these imitations, cleaning the vials, 
fitting, corking, labelling, stamping with fac-similes of 
the English Government stamp, and in wrapping 
them, with . . . little regard to the originator's rights, 
or that of their heirs. ..." The British nostrums 
chiefly imitated in this Boston shop were Steer's, 
Bateman's, Godfrey's, Dalby's, Betton's, and Stough- 
ton's. The last was a major seller. The store loft \vas 
mostly filled with orange peel and gentian, and the 
laboratory had "a heavy oaken press, fastened to the 

»' John Wesley, Primitive physic, 2Ist ed., London, 1785; ibid., 
22nd ed., London, 1788; ibid., 16th Amcr. ed., Trenton, 1788; 
ibid., 22nd Amer. ed., Philadelphia, 1791; George Dock, "The 
'primitive physic' of Rev. John Wesley," Journal of the .Imerican 
Medical Association, February 20, 1915, vol. 64, pp. 629-638. 

" Rantoul, op. cit. (footnote 72). 


(-ofiUiiiM Aicitliol I 
•ni If. ir^iif (•* 


Figure lo.— Godfrey's Cordial, early 2olh century 
botdes manufactured in the U. S. A. (U. S. .National 
Museum cat. Nos. M-6989 and A/-6990; Smithsonian 
photo 44287-B.) 

wall with iron clantps and bolts, which was used in 
pressing out 'Stoughton's Bitters,' of which we usu- 
ailv prepared a hogshead full at one time." .\ large 
quantity was needed. In those days. Brewer asserted, 
"almost everybody indulged in Stoughton's elixir as 
morning bitters." *' 

Other drugstores certainly followed the practice of 
Brewer's employer, in cleaning up and refilling bottles 
that had previously been drained of their old English 
medicines. The chief source of bottles to hold the 
American imitations, however, was the same as that 
to which Waldo and Rantoul had turned, English 
glass factories. It was not so easy for Americans to 
fabricate the vials as it was for them to compound the 

^ William .\. Brewer, "Reminiscences of an old pharmacist."' 
Pharmaceutical Record, August 1, 1884, vol. 4, p. 326. 



Figure ii. — An Original Package of Hooper's 
Pills, from ihc Samuel Aker, David and George Kass 
collection, Albany, New York. {Smithsonian photo 

mixtures to lill ihcin. In the years before the War of 
1812, the British glass industry maintained a \irtual 
monopoly of the specially-shaped bottles for Bate- 
man's, Turlington's, and the other British remedies. 
When in the 1820's the first titan of made-in-America 
nostrums, Thomas W. Dyotl of Philadelphia, appeared 
upon the scene, this \enturesomc entrepreneur decided 
to make bottles not only for his own assorted remedies 
but also for the po|)ular Engiisii brands. In time he 
succeeded in impro\ing the quality of .\merican bottle 
glass and in draslicajly reducing prices. The standard 
cost for most of the old English \ ials under the British 
monopoly had been $5.50 a gross. By the early 1830's 
Dyott had cut the price to under two dollars.*'' 

Other American glass manufactories followed suit. 
For example, in 1835 the Free Will Glass Manufactory 
was making "Godfrey's Cordial," ''Turlington's Bal- 
sam," and "Opodeldoc Bitters bottles." " An 1848 
broadside entitled "The Glassblowers' List of Prices 
of Druggist's Ware," a broadside preserved at the 
Smithsonian Institution, includes listings for Turling- 
ton's Bal.sam, Godfrey's Cordial, Dalby's and Small 
and Large Opodeldoc bottles, among many other 
American patent medicine bottles. 

In the daybook of the Beverly, Massachusetts, apoth- 
ecary,*" were inscribed for Turlington's Balsam, 
three separate formulas, each markedly dififerent from 
the others. A Philadelphia medical journal in 1811 

" Democratic Press, Philadelphia, July 1 and October 28, 1824; 
Thomas W. Dyott, An exposition of the system oj moral and mental 
ahor, established at the glass factory of Dyottsiilte, Philadelphia, 
1833; and Joseph D. Weeks, "Reports on the manufacture of 
glass," Report of the manufactures of the United States at the tenth 
census, Washington, D. C, 1883. 

*' Van Rensscalar, op. cit., (footnote 53), p. 151. 

" Rantoul, op. cit. (footnote 72). 

contained a complaint that ."Americans were using 
calomel in the preparation of .Ander.son's Scots Pills, 
and that this practice was a deviation both from the 
original formula and from the different init still all- 
vegetable formula by which the jjills were being made 
in England." Various books were published reveal- 
ing the "true" formulas, in conflicting versions.** 

Philadelphia College of Pharmacy Formulary 

As the years went Ijy and therapeutic laissez-faire 
continued to operate, conditions worsened. By the 
early 1820's, the old English patent medicines, whether 
of dwindling British vintage or of burgeoning American 
manufacture, were as familiar as laudanum or castor 

With the demand so extensive and the state of pro- 
duction so chaotic, the officials of the new Philadel- 
phia College of Pharmacy were persuaded that reme- 
dial action was mandatory. In May 1822, the Board 
of Trustees resolved to appoint a 5-man committee 
"to .select from such prescriptions for the preparation 
of Patent Medicines . , ., as may be submitted to 
them by the members of the College, those which in 
their opinion, may be deemed most appropriate for 
tiie different compositions." 

The committee chose for study "eight of the Patent 
Medicines most in," and sought to ascertain what 
ingredients these ancient remedies ought by right to 
contain. Turning to the original formulas, where 
these were given in English patent .specifications, the 
])harmacists soon became convinced that the informa- 
tion provided by the original proprietors served "only 
to mislead." 

If the patent specifications were perhaps intention- 
ally confusing, the committee inquired, how could the 
original formulas really be known? This quest seemed 
so fruitless that it was not pursued. Instead the phar- 
macists turned to American experience in making the 
English medicines. From many members of the Col- 
lege, and from other pharmacists as well, recipes were 
secured. The result was shocking. Although almost 
every one came bolstered with the assertion that it 
was true and genuine, the formulas differed so mark- 

s' Philadelphia Medical Museum, new scr., vol. 1, p. 130, 1811. 

** Formulae selectae; or a collection of prescriptions of eminent physi- 
cians, and the most celebrated patent medicines. New York, 1818; 
John Ayrton Paris, Pharmacologia; or the history of medicinal sub- 
stances, with a view to establish the art of prescribing and of composing 
extemporaneous formulae upon fixed and scientific principles. New York, 



edly one from the other, the committee reported, as 
to make "the task of reformation a very difficult one." 
Indeed, in some cases, when two recipes bearing the 
same old English name were compared, they were 
found to contain not one ingredient in common. In 
other cases, the proportions of some basic ingredient 
would \ary widely. .Ml the formulas collected for 
Bateman's Pectoral Drops, for instance, contained 
opium, but the amount of opivun to liquid ingredients 
in one formula submitted was 1 to 14, while in another 
it was 1 to 1,000. 

Setting forth boldly to slri|) these I'.nglish nostrums 
of "their extravagant pretensions," the connnittee 
sought to devise formulas for their composition as 
simple and inexpensive as possible while yet retaining 
the "chief compatible virtues" ascribed to them on the 
traditional wrappers. 

Hooper's Female Pills had been from the beginning 
a cathartic and emmenagogue. However, only aloes 
was common to all the recipes submitted to the com- 
mittee. This botanical, which still finds a place in 
laxati\e products today, was retained by the com- 
mittee as the cathartic base, and to it were added '"the 
Extract of Hellebore, the Sulphate of Iron and the 
Mvrrh as the best emmenagogues." 

.Anderson's Scots Pills had been a ""mild" purgatixe 
throughout its long career, varying in composition 
"according to the judgement or fancy of the pre- 
parer." Paris, an English physician, had earlier re- 
ported that these pills consisted of aloes and jalap; 
the committee decided on aloes, with small amounts 
of colocynth and gamboge, as the purgatives of choice. 

Of Bateman's Pectoral Drops more divergent ver- 
sions existed than of any of the others. The commit- 
tee setded on a formula of opium and camphor, not 
unlike paragoric in composition, with catachu, anise 
flavoring, and coloring added. Godfrey's Cordial also 
featured opium in widely varying amounts. The 
cornmittee chose a formula which would provide a 
grain of opium per ounce, to which was added sassa- 
fras "as the carminative which has become one of the 
chief features of the medicine." 

English apothecary Dalljy had introduced his "Car- 
minative" for "all those fatal Disorders in the Bowels 
of Infants." The committee decided that a grain of 
opium to the ounce, together with magnesia and three 
volatile oils, were essential "for this mild carminative 
and laxative ... for children." 

Instead of the complex formula described by Rob- 
ert Turlington for his Balsam of Life, the committee 
settled on the official formula of Compoimd Tincture 

of Benzoin, with balsam of peru, myrrh, and angelica 
root added, to produce "an elegant and rich balsamic 
tincture." On the other hand, the committee 
adopted "with slight variations, the Linimentum 
Saponis of the old London Dispensatory" to which 
they, like Steers, added only ammonia. 

The committee found two distinct types of British 
Oil on the market. One employed oil of turpentine 
as its basic ingredient, while the other utilized fla.xseed 
oil. The committee decided that both oil.s, along 
with several others in lesser quantities, were necessary 
to produce a medicine "as exhibited in the directions" 
sold with British Oil. "Oil of Bricks" which appar- 
ently was the essential ingredient of the Betton British 
Oil, was described by the committee as "a nauseous 
and unskilful preparation, which has long since been 
banished from the Pharmacopoeias." 

Thu> the Philadelphia pharmacists devised eight 
new standardized formulas, aimed at retaining the 
therapeutic goals of the original patent medicines, 
while brought abreast of current pharmaceutical 
knowledge. Recognizing that the labeling had long 
contained "extravagant pretensions and false asser- 
tions," the committee recommended that the wrap- 
pers be modified to present only truthful claims. If 
the College trustees .should adopt the changes sug- 
gested, the committee concluded optimistically, then 
"the reputation of the College preparations would 
soon become widely spread, and we . . . should reap 
the benefit of the examination which has now Ijeen 
made, in an increased public confidence in the Insti- 
tution and its members; the influence of which would 
be felt in extending the drug business of our city." " 

The trustees felt this counsel to be wise, and ordered 
250 copies of the 1 2-page pamphlet to be printed. So 
popular did this first major undertaking of the Phila- 
delphia College prove that in 1833 the formulas were 
reprinted in the pages of the journal published by the 
College.'^" Again the demand was high, few numbers 
of the publication were "more sought after," and in 
1839 the formulas were printed once again, this time 
with slight revisions." 

8» Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, Formulae Jot the pupara- 
tion of eight patent medicines, adopted by the Philadelphia College of 
Pharmacy, May 4, 1824; Joseph VV. England, cd., The first century 
of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, 1S21-1921, Philadelphia, 

»» "Patent medicines," Journal of the Philadelphia College of 
Pharmacy, .\pril 1833, vol. 5, pp. 20-31. 

" C. Ellis, "Patent medicines," American Journal of Pharmacy, 
.-\pril 1839, new ser., vol. 5, pp. 67-74. 



Thus had ilic old Enghsh patent medicines reached 
a new point in their American odyssey. They had 
first crossed the Atlantic to serve the financial inter- 
ests of the men who promoted them. During the 
Revolution they had lost their British identity while 
retaining their British names. The Philadelphia 
pharmacists, while adopting them and reforming 
their character, did not seek to monopolize them, as 
had the original proprietors. J'hey now could work 
for every man. 

English Patent Medicines Go West 

The double reprinting of the formulas was one token 
of the continuing role in American therapy of the old 
English patent medicines. There were others. In 
1829 with the establishment of a school of pharmacy 
in New York City, the Philadelphia formulas were ac- 
cepted as standard. The new labels devised by the 
Philadelphians with their more modest claims of effi- 
cacy had a good sale.^- It was doubtless the Philadel- 
phia recipes which went into the Bateman and Tur- 

« England, nf,. at. (footnote 89), pp. 73, 103. 

lington and Godfrey vials with which a new druggist 
should be equipped "at the outset of business," ac- 
cording to a book of practical coun.sel." To local 
merchants who lacked the knowledge or time to do it 
themselves, drummers and peddlers vended the medi- 
cines already bottled. "Doctor" William Euen of 
Philadelphia issued a pamphlet in 1840 to introduce 
his son to "Physicians and Country Merchants." His 
primary concern was dispensing nostrums bearing his 
own label, but his son was also prepared to take orders 
for the old English patent medicines.''' Manufac- 
turers and wholesalers of much better repute were pre- 
pared to sell bottles for the same brands, empty or 

"' Carpenter, op. cit. (footnote 73). 

'* William Euen, A short expose on quackery . . . or, introduction 
of his son to physicians atul country merchants . PbilaiUIphia, 1840. 

Figure 12. — English .-wd .\meric.\n Brands of 
Hooper's Fem.ale Pills, an assortment of packages of 
from the Samuel Aker, David and George Kass 
collection, .'\lbany. New \'ork. (Smithsonian photo 
4420 1 -D.) 



In the early 1850's a younsr pharmacist in upstate 
New York,'* using "old alcohol barrels for tanks," 
worked hard at concocting Batcman's and Godfrey's 
and Steer's remedies. John Uri Lloyd of Cincinnati 
recalled having compounded Godfrey's Cordial and 
Bateman's Drops, usually making ten gallons in a 
single batch.'' Out in Wisconsin, another druggist 
was buying Godfrey's Cordial bottles at a dollar for 
half a gross, sticking printed directions on them that 
cost twelve cents for the same quantity, and selling the 
medicine at four ounces for a quarter.''" He also sold 
British Oil and Opodeldoc, the same old English 
names dispensed by a druggist in another Wisconsin 
town, who in addition kept Bateman's Oil in stock at 
thirteen cents the bottle.'* Godfrey's was listed in the 
1860 inventory of an Illinois general store at si.\ cents 
a botde.'' 

Farther west the same familiar names appeared. 
Indeed, the old English patent medicines had long 
since moved westward with fur trader and settler. As 
early as 1783, a trader in western Canada, shot by a 
rival, called for Turlington's Balsam to stop the bleed- 
ing. Alas, in this case, the remedy failed to work.'"" 
In 1800 that inveterate Methodist traveler. Bishop 
Francis Asbury, resorted to Stoughton's Elixir when 
afflicted with an intestinal complaint.'"' In 1808, 
some two months after the first newspa{)er began pub- 
lishing west of the Mississippi River, a local store ad- 
vised readers in the vicinity of St. Louis that "a large 
supply of patent medicines" had just been received. 

'* James Winchell Forbes, "The memoirs of an .\mcrican 
pharmacist," Midland Druggist and Pharmaceutical Review, 1911, 
vol. 45, pp. 388-395. 

"John Uri Lloyd, "Eclectic fads," Eclectic Medical Journal, 
October 1921, vol. 81, p. 2. 

" Cody & Johnson Drug Co., Apothecary daybooks. Water- 
town, Wisconsin [1851-1872]. Manuscript originals pre- 
served in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, cataloged 
under "Cady." 

" Swarthout and Silsbee, Druggists daybook, Columbus, 
Wisconsin [1852-1853]. Manuscript original preserved in the 
State Historical Society of Wisconsin. 

" McClaughry and Tyler, Invoice book, Fountain Green, 
Illinois [1860-1877]. Manuscript original preserved in the 
Illinois State Historical Society, Springfield. 

'<"> Harold .\. Innis, Peter Pond, fur trader and adventurer, 
Toronto, 1930. 

101 Peter Oliver, "Notes on science, medicine and public 
health in the United States in the year 1800," Bulletin of the 
History oj Medicine. 1944, vol. 16, p. 129. 

among them Godfrey's Cordial, British Oil, Turling- 
ton's Balsam, and Steer's "Ofodcldo [sic]." '"^ 

Turlington's product played a particular role in the 
Indian trade, thus demonstrating that the red man 
has not been limited in nostrum history to providing 
medical secrets for the white man to exploit. Proof 
of this has been demonstrated by archaeologists work- 
ing under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution 
in both North and South Dakota. Two pear-shaped 
bottles with Turlington's name and patent claims cm- 
bossed in the glass were excavated by a Smithsonian 
Institution River Basin Surveys expedition in 1952, 
on the site of an old trading post known as Fort At- 
kinson or Fort Bethold II, situated some 16 miles 
southeast of the present Elbowoods, North Dakota. 
In 1954 the North Dakota Historical Society found a 
third bottle nearby. These posts, operated from the 
mid-1 850's to the mid-1 880's, served the Hidatsa and 
Mandan Indians who dwelt in a town named Like-a- 
I'ishhook Village. The medicine bottles were made 
of cast glass, light green in color, probably of Ameri- 
can manufacture. More interesting is the bottle from 
South Dakota. It was excavated in 1923 near Mo- 
bridge at a site which was the principal village of the 
Arikara Indians from about 1800 to 1833, a town vis- 
ited by Lewis and Clark as they ascended the Missouri 
River in 1804. This bottle, made of lead glass 
and therefore an imported article, was unearthed from 
a grave in the Indian burying ground. Throughout 
history the claims made in Ijehalf of patent medicines 
have been extreme. This Turlington bottle, however, 
affords one of the few cases on record wherein such a 
medicine has been felt to possess a postmortem util- 
ity. '"^ 

Fur traders were still using old English patent medi- 
cines at mid-century. Four dozen bottles of Turling- 
ton's Balsam were included in an "Inventory of Stock 
the property of Pierre Chouteau, Jr. and Co. U[pper]. 
M[issouri]. On hand at Fort Benton 4th May 
1851. . . ." '°* In the very same year, out in the 
new State of California, one of the early San Fran- 
cisco papers listed Stoughton's Bitters as among the 
merchandise for sale at a general store."" 

'»-' Isaac Lionbcrger, "Advertisements in the Missouri Ga- 
zette, 1808-1811," Missouri Historical Society Cotltctions, 1928- 
1931, vol. 6, p. 21. 

"» Wcdcl and GrifTcnhagcn, op. cit. (footnote 54). 

'<" .\. McDonnell, Contributions to the Historical Society of .Mon- 
tana, 1941, vol. 10, pp. 202, 217. 

'»5 California Daily Courier, San Francisco, April 25, 1851. 



Newspaper advertising of tlic English proprietaries — 
even the mere Hsting so common during the late 
colonial years — became very rare after the Philadel- 
phia College of Pharmacy pamphlet was issued. 
Apothecary George J. Fischer of Frederick, Mary- 
land, might mention seven of the old familiar names 
in 1837,"" and another druggist in the same city might 
present a shorter list in 1844,"^^ but such advertising 
was largely gratuitous. Since the English patent med- 
icines had become every druggist's property, people 
who felt the need of such dosage would expect every 
druggist to have them in stock. There was no more 
need to advertise them than there was to advertise 
laudanum or leeches or castor oil. Even the Supreme 
Court of Massachusetts in 1837 took judicial cogni- 
zance of the fact that the old English patent medicine 
names had acquired a generic meaning descriptive of 
a general class of medicines, names which everyone 
was free to use and no one could monopolize.'"* 

As the years went by, and as advertising did not 
keep the names of tlie old English medicines before 
the eyes of customers, it is a safe assumption that their 
use declined. Losing their original proprietary status, 
they were playing a different role. New American 
proprietaries had stolen the appeal and usurped the 
function which Bateman's Drops and Turlington's 
Balsam had possessed in 18th-century London and 
Boston and Williamsburg. As part of the cultural 
nationalism that had accompanied the Revolution, 
American brands of nostrums had come upon the 
scene, promoted with all the vigor and cleverness once 
bestowed in English but not in colonial American ad- 
vertising upon Dalby's Carminative and others of its 
kind. While these English names retreated from 
American advertising during the 19th century, vast 
blocks of space in the ever-larger newspapers were de- 
voted to extolling the merits of Dyott's Patent Itch 
Ointment, Swaim's Panacea, and Brandreth's Pills. 
More and more Americans were learning how to read, 
as free public education spread. Persuaded by the 
frightening symptoms and the glorious promises, 
citizens with a bent toward self-dosage flocked to buy 
the American brands. Druggists and general stores 
stocked them and made fine profits."* While bottles 

Hit, p0iiiic„i Examiner, Frederick, Maryland, .^pril 19, 1837. 

"" Frederick Examiner, Frederick, Maryland, January 31, 1844. 

"* Massachusetts Supreme Court, Thomson vs. Winchester, 19 
Pick (Mass.), p. 214, March 1837. 

^ '"James Harvey Young, "Patent medicines: the early post- 
fronlier phase," Journal of the Illinois Stoif IJistorimt Sr.drlv, 
Autumn 1953, vol. 46, pp. 254-264. 

Figure 13. — Opodeldoc 
Bottle fiom the collection 
of Mrs. Leo F. Redden, 
Kenmore, New York. 

{Smitlisonian photo 44201-ii.) 

of British Oil sold two for a quarter in 1885 Wisconsin, 
one bottle of Jayne's Expectorant retailed for a dol- 
lar."" It is no wonder that, although the old English 
names continue to appear in the mid-1 9th-ccntury 
and later druggists' catalogs and price currents,'" 
they are muscled aside by the multitude of brash 
American nostrums. Many of the late 19th century 
listings continued to follow the procedure set early in 
the century of specifying two grades of the various 
patent medicines, i.e., "English" and "American," 
"genuine" and "imitation," "U. S." and "stamped." 
American manufactories specializing in pharmaceuti- 
cal glassware continued to offer the various English 
patent medicine bottles until the close of the 

In a thesaurus published in 1899, Godfrey's, Bate- 
man's, Turlington's, and other of the old English pat- 
ent rcinedies were termed "extinct patents." '" The 
adjective referred to the status of the patent, not the 
condition of the medicines. If less prominent than in 

"" Cody and Johnson Drug Co., op. cit. (footnote 97). 

'" Van Schaack, Stevenson & Rcid, Annual prices current, 
Chicago, 1875; Morrison, Plummer & Co., Price current of drugs, 
chemicals, oils, glassware, patent medicines, druggists sundries . . . , 
Chicago, 1880. 

"- Hagerty Bros. & Co., Catalogue 0/ Druggists' glassware, 
sundries, fancy goods, etc.. New York, 1879; Whitall, Tatum & 
Co., .Annual pr lie list, Millville, Nevvjei-scy, 1898. 

'" Emil Hiss, Thesaurus oj proprietor preparations and pharma- 
ceutical specialties, Chicago, 1899, p. 12. 



Figure 14. — Opodeldoc 
Bottle as illuslrated in the 
1879 Catalog of Hagerty 
Bros., New York City, New 

the olden days, the medicines were still alive. The 
first edition of the National Formulary, published in 
1888, had cited the old English names as synonyms 
for official preparations in four cases, Dalby's, Bate- 
man's, Godfrey's and Turlington's. 

Thus as the present century opened, the old English 
patent medicines were still being sold. City druggists 
were dispensing them over their counters, and the ped- 
dler's wagon carried them to remote rural regions."* 
But the medical scene was changing rapidly. Im- 
provements in medical science, stemming in part from 
the establishment of the germ theory of disease, were 
providing a better yardstick against which to measure 
the therapeutic efficiency of proprietary remedies. 
Medical ethics were likewise advancing, and the oc- 
casional critic among the ranks of physicians was being 
joined by scores of his fellow practitioners in lam- 
basting the brazen effrontery of the hundreds of 
American cure-alls which advertised from newspaper 
and roadside sign. Journalists joined doctors in con- 
demning nostrums. Samuel Hopkins Adams in par- 
ticular, writing "The Great American Fraud" series 
for Colliers Weekly, frightened and aroused the Ameri- 
can public with his exposure of cheap whiskey posing 
as consumption cures and soothing syrups filled with 
opimn. Then came a revolution in public policy. 
After a long and frustrating legislative prelude, Con- 

gress in June of 1906 passed, and President Theodore 
Roosevelt signed, the first Pure Food and Drugs Act. 
The law contained clauses aimed at curtailing the 
worst features of the patent medicine evil. 

The Patent Medicines In The 20th Century 

Although the old English patent medicines had not 
been the target at which disturbed physicians and 
"muck-raking" journalists had taken aim, these an- 
cient remedies were governed by provisions of the 
new law. In November 1906 the Bureau of Chem- 
istry of the Department of Agriculture, in charge of 
administering the new federal statute, received a letter 
from a wholesale druggist in Evansville. Indiana. One 
of his stocks in trade, the druggist wrote, was a remedy 
called Godfrey's Cordial. He realized that the Pure 
Food and Drugs Act had something to do with the 
labeling of medicines containing opium, as Godfrey's 
did, and he wanted to know from the Bureau just 
what was required of him."^ Many manufacturing 
druggists and producers of medicine were equally 
anxious to learn how the law would affect them. The 
editors of a trade paper, the American Druggist and Phar- 
maceutical Record, issued warnings and ga\-e advice. It 
was still the custom, they noted, to wrap bottles of 
ancient patent medicines, like Godfrey's Cordial and 
Tvirlington's Balsam, in facsimiles of the original cir- 
culars, on which were printed extravagant claims and 
fabulous certificates of cures that dated back some two 
hundred years. The new law was not going to per- 
mit the continuation of such 18th-century practices. 
Statements on the label "false or misleading in any 
particular" were banned.'" 

A few manufacturers, as the years went by, fell afoul 
of this and other provisions of the law. In 1918 a 
Reading, Pennsylvania, firm entered a plea of guilty 
and received a fifty dollar fine for putting on the 
market an adulterated and misbranded version of Dr. 
Bateman's Pectoral Drops."' The law required that 
all medicines sold under a name recognized in the 
United States pharmacopoeia or the .\ational formulary. 

"* Robert B. Nixon, Jr., Corner druggist, New York, 1941, 
p. 68. 

"5 Letter from Charles Lcich & Co. to Harvey Washington 
Wiley, Bureau of Chemistry, Department of .-Xpiiculturc, No- 
vember 2, 1906. Manuscript original in Record Group 97, 
National Archives, Washington, D. C. 

'" American Druggist and Phatmacntticat Record, 1906, vol. 49, 
pp. 343-344. 

"" Department of .^gricullure. Bureau of CJiemistry, Notices 
of Judgment under the Food and Drugs .\ct. Notice of Judg- 
ment 6222, United States vs. Pabst Pure Extract Co., 1919. 



and Baleman's was included in the laller, must not 
differ from the standard of strength, quaHty, or purity 
as established by these volumes. Yet the Bateman 
Drops produced in Reading, the government charged, 
fell short. They contained only 27.8 percent of the 
alcohol and less than a tenth of the morphine that 
they should have had. While short on active ingredi- 
ents, the Drops were long on claims. The wrapper 
boasted that the medicine was "effective as a remedy 
for all fluxes, spitting of blood, agues, measles, colds, 
coughs, and to put off the most violent fever; as a 
treatment, remedy, and cure for stone and gravel 
in the kidneys, bladder, and urethra, shortness of 
breath, straightness of the breast; and to rekindle 
the most natural heat in the bodies by which they 
restore the languishing to perfect health." Okell and 
Dicey had scarcely promised more. By 20th-century 
standards, the government asserted, these claims were 
false and fraudulent. 

Other manufacturers sold Bateman's Drops without 
running afoul of the law. In 1925. ninety-nine years 
after the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy pamphlet 
was printed, one North Carolina firm was persuaded 
that it still was relevant to tell potential customers, in 
a handbill, that its Drops were being made in strict 
conformity with the College formula."' For Com- 
pound Tincture of Opium and Gambir Compovmd, 
however, most manufacturers chose to follow the 
National Jormularj specifications, which remained offi- 
cial until 1936. 

Another old English patent medicine against which 
the Department of Agriculture was forced to take 
action was Hooper's Female Pills. Between 1919 and 
1923, government agents seized a great many ship- 
ments of this ancient remedy in versions put out by 
three Philadelphia concerns."' Some of the pack- 
ages bore red seals, others green seals, and still others 
black, but the labeling of all claimed them to be 
"a safe and sovereign remedy in female complaints." 
This theme was expanded in considerable detail and 
there was an 18th-century ring to the promise that 
the pills would work a sure cure "in all hypochondriac. 

"' Original handbill, distributed by Standard Urug Co., 
Elizabeth City, North Carolina, 1925, preserved in the files of 
the Bureau of Investigation, American Medical Association, 
Chicago, 111. 

1" Multiple seizures were made of products shipped by the 
Horace B. Taylor Co., Fore & Co., and the American Synthetic 
Co. The quotations are from Notice of Judgment 8868; see 
also 8881, 8914, 8936, 8956, 8974, 9134, 9147, 9203, 9510, 
9586, 9785, 10203, 10204, 10629, 11519, 11669. 

hysterick or vapourish disorders." No pill made es- 
sentially of aloes and ferrous sulphate, said the 
government experts, could do these things. Nor 
did the manufacturers, in court, seek to say otherwise. 
Whether the seals were green or red, whether the 
])ackages were seized in Washington or Worcester, 
the result was the same. No party appeared in court 
to claim the pills, and they were condemned and 

In one of the last actions under the 1906 law, a 
case concluded in 1940, after the first federal statute 
had been superseded by a more rigorous one enacted 
in 1938, two of the old English patent medicines 
encountered trouble.''" They were British Oil 
and Dalby's Carminative, as prepared by the South 
Carolina branch of a large pharmaceutical manufac- 
turing concern. 

According to the label, the British Oil was made 
in conformity with the Philadelphia College of 
Pharmacy formula given in an outdated edition of 
the United Slates dispensatory. But instead of contain- 
ing a proper amount of linseed oil, if indeed it con- 
tained any, the medicine was made with cottonseed 
oil, an ingredient not mentioned in the Dispensatory. 
Therefore, the government charged, the Oil was 
adulterated, under that provision of the law requiring 
a medicine to maintain the strength and purity of 
any standard it professed to follow. More than that, 
the labeling contravened the law since it represented 
the remedy as an effective treatment for various 
swellings, inflammations, fresh wounds, earaches, 
shortnesses of breath, and ulcers. 

Dalby's Carminative was merely misbranded, but 
that was bad enough. Its label suggested that it be 
used especially "For Infants Afflicted With \N'ind, 
Watery Gripes, P'luxcs and Other Disorders of the 
Stomach and Bowels," althousjh it would aid adults 
as well. The impression that this remedy was capable 
of curing such afflictions, the government charged, 
was false and fraudulent. Moreover, since the Carmi- 
native contained opium, it was not a safe medicine 
when given according to the dosage directions in 
a circular accompanvintj the bottle. For these and 
several other violations of the law, the defending 
company, which did not contest the case, was fined 
a hundred dollars. 

120 Federal Security .Agency, Food and Drug .Administration, 
Notice of Judgment 31134, United States vs. McKesson and 
Robbins, Inc., Murray Division, 1942. 




Throughout the 19th century, occa- 
sional criticism of the old English 
patent medicines had been made in the 
lay press. One novel '^' describes a 
physician who comments on the use of 
Dalby's Carminative for babies: "Don't, 
for pity's sake, vitiate and torment your 
poor little angel's stomach, so new to 
the atrocities of this world, with drugs. 
These mixers of baby medicines ought 
to be fed nothing but their own nos- 
trums. That would put a stop to their 
inventions of the adversary." 

Opium had been lauded in tht- 17tli 
and 18th centuries, when the old Eng- 
lish proprietaries Ijegan, as a superior 
cordial which could moderate most 
illnesses and even cure some. "Medi- 
cine would be a one-armed man if it 
did not possess this remcch." So had 
stated the noted English physician, 
Thomas Sydenham.'-" But the 20th 
century had grown to fear this powerful 
narcotic, especially in remedies lor 
children. This point of view, illus- 
trated in the governmental action con- 
cerning Dalby's Carminative, was also 
reflected in medical comment about 
Godfrey's Cordial. During 1912, a Missouri ph\sician 
described the death of a baby who had been given this 
medicine for a week.'-^ The symptoms were those of 
opium poisoning. Deploring the naming of this "dan- 
gerous mixture" a "cordial," since the average person 
thought of a cordial as beneficial, the doctor hoped 
that the formula might be omitted from the next edi- 
tion of the National Jormuhirv- This did not happen, 
for the recipe hung on until 1926. The Harrison Nar- 
cotic Act, enacted in 1914 as a Federal measure to re- 
strict the distribution of narcotics,'-' failed to restrict 














'i "T i|| i i|*' r, l!!!1 T" l 

'^' John William De Forest, Miss Haveners cotwasion from 
secession to loyally. New York, 1867. 

'" Charles H. LaVVall, Tlie curious lore of drugs and medicines 
(Four thousand yeais of phaimacy). Garden City, New York, 
1927, p. 281. 

'22 W. B. Sissons, "Poisoning from Godfrey's Cordial," 
Journal of the American Medical Association, March 2, 1912, 
vol. 58, p. 650. 

'2* Edward Kremers and George Urdang, History oj phmmacy, 
Philadelphia, 1951, pp. 1"0, 278. 

Figure 15. — Turli.ngto.n's B.MJi.v.M oi- Lu l Ijuules 
as pictured in a brochure dated 1 755-1 757, preserved 
in the Pennsylvania Historical Society. Philadelphia. 
Pa. According to Turlington, the bottle was adopted 
in 1754 "to prevent the villainy of some persons who, 
buying up my empty bottles, have basely and wickedly 
put therein a vile spurious counterfeit sort." 

the sale of many opium-bearing compounds like God- 
frey's Cordial. In 1931, a Tennessee resident com- 
plained to the medical journal Hygeia that this medica- 
tion was "sold in general stores and drug stores here 
without prescription and is 2;iven to babies." To 
this, the journal replied that the situation was "little 
short of criminal." '^' The charge leveled against his 
competitors by one of the first producers of Godfrey's 
Cordial two centuries earlier (see page 1 58) may well 
have proved a prophecy broad enough to cover the 
whole history of this potent nostrum. ". . . Many 
Men, Women, and especially Infants," he said, 
"mav fall as Victims, whose Slain may exceed Herod's 
Cruelty . . . ." 

For those who persist in using the formulas of the 
early English patent medicines, recipes are still 
available. Turlington's Balsam remains as an 

'25 "Godfrey's Cordial," Hygria, October 1931. vol. 9, p. 1050. 



unofficial synonym of U. S. P. Compound Tincture 
of Benzoin. Concerning its efiicacy, the United 
States dispensatory '-* states: "The tincture is occasion- 
ally employed internally as a stimulating expectorant 
in chronic bronchitis. More frequently it is used as 
an inhalent .... It has also been recommended in 
chronic dysentery . . . but is of doubtful utility." 

A formula for Godfrey's Cordial, under the title 
of Mixture of Opium and Sassafras, is still carried 
in the Pharmaceutical recipe hook}" Remingtons practice 
of pharmacy '"^ retains a formula for Dalby's Carmina- 
tive under the former J\'ational formulary title of Carmi- 
native Mixture. 

In the nation of their origin, the continuing interest 
in the ancient proprietaries seems somewhat more 
lively than in America. The 1953 edition of Pharma- 
ceutical formulas, published by the London journal 
The Chemist and Druggist, includes formulas for eight 
of the ten old patent medicines described in this study. 
This compendium, indeed, lists not one, but three 
different recipes for British Oil, and the formulas bv 
which Dalby's Carminative may be compounded 
run on to a total of eight. J'wo lineal descendents 
of 18th-century firms which took the lead in exporting 
to America still manufacture remedies made so long 
ago by their predecessors. May, Roberts & Co., 
Ltd.. of London, successors to the Newbery interests, 
continues to market Hooper's Female Pills, whereas 
W. Sutton & Co. (Druggists' Sundries), London, Ltd., 

'-'"' 7'Ac disprnsalory of the United States of America, 25th ed., 
Philadelphia, 1955, p. 158. 

'2' The Pharmaceulicat recipe l/ook, 2nd cd., .\moiican Pharma- 
ceutical Association, 1936, p. 121. 

'JS Eric W. Martin and E. Fiillcrton Cook, editors, Remington's 
practice nf fiharmary. 11th ed., Easton, Pennsylvania, 1956, p. 

of I'.nfield. in Middlesex, succes.sors to Dicey & Co. 
at Bow Churchyard, currently sells Bateman's Pec- 
toral Drops. '■' 

In .\merica, however, the impact of the old English 
patent medicines has been largely absorbed and 
forgotten. During the past twenty years a revolution 
in medical therapy has taken place. Most of the 
drugs in use today were unknown a quarter of a 
century ago. Some of the newer drugs can really 
perform certain of the healing miracles claimed by 
their pretentious proprietors for the old English 
patent medicines. 

A inore recent import from Britain, penicillin, may 
prove to have an even longer life on these shores 
than did Turlington's Balsam or Bateman's Drops. 
Still, two hundred years is a long time. Despite the 
fact that these early English patent medicines are 
nearly forgotten by the public today, their .\merican 
career is none the less worth tracing. It reflects 
aspects n(;t only of medical and pharmaceutical 
history, luit of colonial dependence, cultural nation- 
alism, industrial development, and popular psy- 
chology. It reveals how desperate man has been 
when faced with the terrors of disease, how he has 
purchased the packaged promises offered by the 
sincere hut deluded as well as by the charlatan. 
It shows how science and law have combined to 
offer man some safeguards against deception in his 
pursuit of health. 

The time seems ripe to write the epitaph of the old 
English patent medicines in America. That they are 
now a chapter of history is a token of medical progress 
for mankind. 

'29 Letter from Owen H. Waller, editor of The Chemist and 
Druggist, to George Griffenhagen, January 15, 1957. 

Figure i6. — Turlington's B.\i.s.\m of Life Bottle 
(all four sides) found in an Indian grave at Mo- 
bridge, South Dakota; now preserved in the U. S. 
National Museum. (Cat. jXo. 32462, Archeol.; 
Smithsonian photo 42936-/I.) 





Contributions from 
The Museum of History and Technology: 

Paper 11 

Why Bewick Succeeded: 
A Note in the History of Wood Engraving 

Jacob Kainen 







A Note in the History 

of Wood Engravijig 

By Jacob Kainen 

Thomas Bewick has been acclaimed as the pioneer of 
tnoderii wood engraving whose genius brought this popular 
medium to prominence . This study shows that certain 
technological developments prepared a path for Bewick 
and helped give his work its unique character. 

The Author: Jacob Kainen is curator of graphic 
arts. Museum of History and Technology)', in the Smith- 
sonian Institution's United States National Museum. 

No OTHER ARTIST has approached Thomas Bewick 
(1753-1828) as the chronicler of English rustic 
life. The little wood engravings which he turned out 
in such great number were records of typical scenes 
and episodes, but the artist could also give them social 
and moral overtones. Such an approach has at- 
tracted numerous admirers who have held him in 
esteem as an undoubted homespun genius. The fact 
that he had no formal training as a wood engraver, 
and actually never had a lesson in drawing, made his 
native inspiration seem all the more authentic. 

The Contemporary View of Bewick 

After 1790, when his A general history of quadrupeds 
appeared with its vivid animals and its humorous and 
mordant tailpiece vignettes, he was hailed in terms 
that have hardly been matched for adulation. Cer- 
tainly no mere book illustrator ever received equal 
acclaim. He was pronounced a great artist, a great 
man, an outstanding moralist and reformer, and the 
master of a new pictorial method. This flood of 
eulogy rose increasingly during his lifetime and con- 
tinued throughout the remainder of the 19 th century. 
It came from literary men and women who saw him 
as the artist of the common man; from the pious who 
recognized him as a commentator on the vanities and 
hardships of life (but who sometimes deplored the 
frankness of his subjects); from bibhophiles who wel- 

comed him as a revolutionary illustrator; and from 
fellow wood engravers for whom he was the indis- 
[jensable trail blazer. 

During the initial wave of Bewick appreciation, 
the usually sober \Vord.sworth wrote in the 1 805 edi- 
tion of I.yriial ballads: ' 

O now (h;U the tjeiiius of Bewick were mine, 
And the skiU w'hich he learned on the banks of the Tyne ! 
Then the Muses might deal with me just as they chose, 
For I'd take my last leave both of verse and of prose. 
What feats would I work with my magical hand ! 
Book learnini; and books would he banished the land. 

If art critics as a class were the most con.scrvative 
in their estimates of his ability, it was one of the most 
eminent. John Ruskin, whose praise went to most 
extravagant lengths. Bewick, he asserted, as late as 
1890,^ ". . . without training, was Holbein's equal 
... in this frame arc set together a drawinsi; by Hans 
Holbein, and one by Thomas Bew ick. I know which 
is most scholarly; but I do mil know which is best." 
Linking Bewick with Botticelli as a draughtsman, he 
added:' "I know no drawing so subtle as Bewick's 
since the fifteenth century, except Holbein's and 
Turner's." .\nd as a typical example of popular 
ap|)reciation, the following, from the June 1828 issue 

' William Woi-dswoith, Lyrical ballads, London, 1805, vol. 1. 
p. 199. 

- John Ruskin, Ariadne Florenlina, London, 1 890, pp. 98, 99. 
3 llml., p. 246. 



of Blackwood's Magazi'if. apiicaring a few months before 
Bewick's death, should siifTiee: 

Have we foigoltcn, in our liunied and imperfect enumera- 
tion of wise worthies, — have we forgotten ''The Genius that 
dwells on the bunks of the Tyne." the matchless, Inimitable 
Bewick? No. His books lie in our parlour, dining-room, 
drawincj-ioom. study-table, and are never out of place or 
time. lla|jpy old man! The delight of childhood, man- 
hood, decaying age ! — A moral in every tail-piece — a 
sermon in every vignette. 

This acclaim came to Bewick not only because his 
subjects had a homely honesty, but also, althouyh 
not generally taken into account, because of the 
brilliance and clarity with which they were printed. 
Compared with the wood engravings of his prede- 
cessors, his were tnore detailed and resonant in 
black and white, and accordingly seemed miraculous 
and unprecedented. He could engrave finer lines 
and achieve better impressions in the press because 
of improvements in technology which will be dis- 
cussed later, but for a century the convincing qualities 
of this new technique in combination with his sub- 
ject matter led admirers to believe that he was an 
artist of great stature. 

Later, more mature judgment has made it plain that 
his contributions as a craftsman outrank his worth 
as an artist. He was no Holbein, no Botticelli — it is 
absurd to think of him in such terms — but he did 
de\^clop a fresh method of handling wood engraving. 
Because of this he represents a turning point in the 
development of this medium which led to its rise as 
the great popular vehicle for illustration in the 
19th century. In his hands wood engraving under- 
went a special transformation: it became a means 
for rendering textures and tonal values. Earlier 
work on wood could not do this; it could manage 
only a rudimentary suggestion of tones. The re- 
finements that followed, noticeable in the highly 
finished products of the later 19th century, came as 
a direct and natural consequence of Bewick's con- 
tributions to the art. 

Linton^ and a few others object to the general 
claim that Bewick was the reviver or founder of 
modern wood engraving, not only because the art 
was practiced earlier, if almost anonymously, and 
had never really died out, but also because his bold 
cuts had little in common with their technician's 
concern with infinite manipulation of surface tones, 
a feature of later work. But this nii.sscs the main 

* William Linton, The masters of wood engraving, London, 
1889, p. 133. 

471274—59 13 

Figure I. W oijdi:l I iiM. I'ki m i i)i i;i . showing 
method of cutting with the knife on the plank grain, 
from Jean Papillon's Traite de la graiure en bois, 1766. 

point — that Bewick had taken the first actual steps 
in the new direction. 

Unquestionably he ga\e the medium a new pur- 
pose, even though it was not generally adopted until 
after 1830. Through his pupils, his unrelenting in- 
dustry, and his enormous influence he fathered a pic- 
torial activity that brought a vastly increased quan- 
titv of illustrations to the public. Periodical litera- 
ture, spurred by accompanying pictures that could be 
cheaply made, quickly printed, and dramatically 
pointed, became a livelier force in education. Text- 


books, trade journals, dictionaries, and other publica- 
tions could more etTectively teach or describe; scien- 
tific journals could include in the body of text neat 
and accurate pictures to enliven the pasjcs and illus- 
trate the equipment and procedures described. .Ar- 
ticles on travel couki now ha\e convincingly realistic 
renditions of architectural landmarks and of foreign 
sights, customs, personages, aTid views. The wood en- 
graving, in short, made ])ossil)le the modern illus- 
trated jniblication because, unlike cupper plate en- 
graving or etching, it could be quickly set up with 
printed matter. Its use, therefore, multiplied in- 
creasinulv until just before 1900, when it was super- 
seded for these purposes by the photomechanical half- 

But while Bewick was the prime mo\er in this revo- 
lutionary change, little attention has been given to the 
important technological development that cleared 
the way for him. Without it he could not have 
emerged .so slartlingly; without it there would have 
been no modern wood engraving. It is not captious 
to point out the purely industrial basis for his coming 
to ijrominence. Even had he been a greater artist, a 
study of the technical means at hand would ha\e 
validitv in showing the interrelation of industry and 
art although, of course, the aesthetic contribution 
would stand by itself. 

But in Bewick's case the aesthetic level is not par- 
ticularly high. Good as his art was, it wore an every- 
day aspect: he did not give it that additional expres- 
sive tmn found in the work of greater artists. It 
should not be surprising, then, that his work was not 
inimitable. It is well-known that his pupils made 
many of the cuts attribiUed to him, makinc; the orig- 
inal drawings and engraving in his style so well that 
the results form almost one indistinguishable body of 
work. The pupils were competent but not gifted, yet 
they could turn out wood engravings not inferior to 
Bewick's own. .And so we find that such capable 
technicians as Nesbit, Clennell, Robinson, Hole, the 
Johnsons, Harvey, and others all contributed to the 
Bewick cult. 

Linton, who worshipped him as an artist but found 
him primitive as a technician, commented: '' "Widely 
praised by a crowd of unknowing connoisseurs and 
undiscriminating collectors, we have yet, half a cen- 
tury after his death, to point out how much of what is 
attributed to him is reallv bv his hand." 

C'.hatto," who obtained his information from at least 
one Bewick jjupil, says that many of the best tailpieces 
in the History of British birds were drawn by Robert 
Johnson, and that "the greater number of those con- 
tained in the second volume were engraved by Clen- 
nell." Granted that the outlook and the engraving 
style were Bewick's, and that were notable con- 
tributions, the fact that the results were so close to his 
fjwn points more to an effective method of illustr;ition 
than to the outpourings of genius. 

Low Status of rhc Woodcut 

Bewick's training could not have been less promis- 
ing. Apprenticed to Ralph Beill)y at the age of four- 
teen, he says of his master: " 

. . . The work-place was filled with ilu- coarsest kind 
of steel-stamps, pipe moulds, bottle inuulds, brass clock 
faces, door plates, coffin plates, bookbinders letters and 
stamps, steel, silver and gold seals, mourning rings,&c. He 
also undertook the engraving of arms, crests and cyphers, 
on silver, and every kind of Job from the silversmiths; also 
engraving bills of e.xchangc, bank notes, invoices, account 
heads, and cards . . . The higher department of engraving, 
such as landscapes or historical plates. I dare say, was 
hardly thought of by my master . . . 

.'\ little engraving on wood was also done, but 
Bewick tells us that his master was imcomfortable in 
this field and almost always turned it over to him. 
His training, ob\iously, was of a rough and ready sort, 
based upon serviceable but routine engraving on 
metal. Then; was no study of drawing, com])osition, 
or any of the refinements that could be learned from 
a master who had a knowledge of art. Whatever 
Bewick had of the finer points of drawing and design 
he nmst have picked up by himself. 

When he completed his a|i|jreiuiceship in 1774 
at the age of twenty-one, the art of engraving and 
cutting on wood was just beginning to show signs 
of life after more than a centui\- and a half of occupy- 
ins>; the lowest position in the graphic arts. Since it 
could not produce a full gamut of tones in the gray 
register, which could be managed brilliantly by the 
copper plate media — line engraving, etching, mez- 
zotint and aquatint — it was confined to ruder and 
less exacting uses, such as ornameiual headbands 
and tailpieces for printers and as illustrations for 
cheap popular broadsides. When <;ood illustrations 

' Ibid. 

" William (.llialtu, and .John Jarkson, .1 Inalise on wood en- 
graving, London, 1861 (1st ed. 1839), pp. 496-498. 

' Thomas Bewick, Memoir of Thomas Bewick, New York, 
1925 (1st cd. London, 1862), pp. 50, 51. 



I'igure 2. — Wood Engraving 
Procedure, showing manipula- 
lion of the burin, from Chatto and 
Jackson, A /realise on wood engraving, 
1 86 1. (Sec footnote 6.) 

were needed in books and periodicals, copper plate 
work was almost invariably used, despite the fact 
that it was more costly, was much slower in execution 
and printing, and had to be bovmd in with text in 
a separate operation. But while the Society of 
Arts had begun to offer prizes for engraving or 
cutting on wood (Bewick received such a prize in 
1775) the medium was still moribund. Dobson •** 
described its status as follows: 

During the earlier part of the figlucciuii century 
engraving on wood can scarcely be said to have flomislicd 
in England. It existed — so much may be admitted — but 
it existed without recognition or importance. In the 
useful little El<it des Arts en Angleterre, published in 1755 b\- 
Roquet the enameller, — a treatise so catholic in its scope 
that it included both cookery and medicine, — ilieic is no 
reference to the art of wood-engraving. In the Artist's 
Assistant, to take another book which might be expected to 
afford soine information, even in the fifth edition of 1788, 
the subject finds no record, even though engraving on metal, 
etching, mezzotinto-scraping — to say nothing of "painting 
on silks, sattins, etc." are treated with sufficient detail. 
Turning from these authorities to the actual woodcuts of the 
period, it must be adinitted that tin- survey is not en- 

Earlier, among other critics of the deficiencies of 
the woodcut, Horace W'alpole** had remarked: 

I have said, and for two reasons, shall say little of wooden 
cuts; that art never was executed with any perfection in 

' Austin Dobson, T/wnuis Bewick and his pupils, Boston, 1884, 
pp. 1, 2. 

° Horace Walpole, Anecdotes of painting in England. A cata- 
logue of engravers who /lave been born, or resided in England. Digested 
from the manuscript of Mr. George Vertue . . . London, 1782 
(1st ed. 1762), p. 4. 

England; engraving on metal was a final improvement of 
the art, and supplied the defects of cuttings in wood. The 
ancient wooden cuts were certainly carried to a great 
heighth. but that was the merit of the masters, not of the 

Woodcut and Wood Engraving 

It is necessary, before continuing, to distinguish 
clearly between the woodcut and the wood engraving, 
not only because early writers used these terms inter- 
changeably, but also to determine exactly what Be- 
wick contributed technically. The woodcut began 
with a drawing in pen-and-ink on the plank surface 
of a smooth-grained wood such as pear, serviceix-rry, 
or box. The woodcutter, using knife, gouges, and 
chi.'-els, then lowered the wood surrounding the lines 
to allow the original drawing, unaltered, to be iso- 
lated in relief (see fig. 1). Thus the block, when 
inked and printed, produced facsimile impressions of 
the drawing in black lines on white paper. Usually 
an accomplished artist made the drawing, whereas 
only a skilled craftsman was needed to do the cutting; 
very few cutters were also capable of making their own 

The wood engraving, on the other hand, started 
with a section of dense wood of a uniform texture, usu- 
ally box or maple, and with the end-grain rather than 
the plank as surface. For larger engravings a number 
of sections were mortised together. The drawing was 
made on the block, not in pen-and-ink although this 
could be done (certain types of wood engraving repro- 
duced pen drawings) but in gray washes with a full 
range of tones. The engraver, using a burin similar 
to that employed in copper plate work, then ploughed 



Figure 3. — Late 15TH-CENTURY White-Line En- 
graving "The crowning of ihe Virgin," in the "dotted 
manner" executed on metal for relief printing. Parts 
were hand colored. 

out wood in delicate ribbon.s (see fig. 2). Since ilu- 
surface was to receive ink, the procediuc inovccl from 
black to while: the more lines taken away, the lighter 
the tones would appear, and, conversely, where fewest 
or finest lines were removed the tones would he the 
darkest. In the finished print the unworked surface 
printed black while each of the engraved lines showed 
as white. It was the "white line" that gave wood en- 
graving its special quality. On the smoother end- 
grain it could be manipulated with extreme fineness. 
an impossibility with the plank side, which would 
tear slightly or "feather" when the burin was moved 
across the grain. Tones and textures approaching 
the scale of copper plate engraving could be created, 
except, of course, that the lines were white and the 
impressions not so brilliant. But since grays were 
achieved by the visual synthesis of black ink and white 
paper, it mattered little whether the engraved lines 
were black or white so long as the desired tnnc^ could 
be produced. 

For purposes of realism, this was an enormous im- 
proNcmcnt over the old black-line woodcut. Natural 
tones and textures could be imitated. The engraver 
was no lonsjer a inerc mechanical craftsman cutting 
ai-otmd existing lines: special skill was needed to trans- 
late tones in terms of while lines of varying thickness 
and spacing. The opportunity also existed for each 
engra\er to work his own tones in his own manner, to 
(le\i-l()p a personal systcni. In short, the mediimi 
served the same purpose as copper plate line engrav- 
ing, with the added \-irtue that it could be jjrinted to- 
gether with type in one impression. If it failed 
artistically to measure up to line engraving or to 
plank woodcut, this was not the fault of the process 
but ol the pi)|uilar re[)rodiuti\'e ends which it almost 
in\ariablv served. 

.Actually, white-line engra\ing lor relief printing 
dates hom the 15th centurv. Ihe most conspicuous 
early examples are the so-called "dotted prims" or 
"gravures en maniere criblee," in which the designs 
were brought out by dots |)un(hed in the plates, and 
by occasional engraved lines (see fig. 3). Until 
Koehler's '" study made this fact plain, 19th-century 
critics could hardly belie\e that these were merely 
white-line metal relief prints, inked on the surface 
like woodcuts. But a number of other examples of 
the saine ])eriod exist which were also made directly 
on copper or type metal — the method, although rudi- 
mentary, being similar in intent to 19th-century wood 
engraving. One of these examples (fig. 4). in the col- 
lection of the U. S. National Museum, is typical. 
I'his was not simply an ordinary line engra\ing printed 
in relief rather than in iht' usual way; the manage- 
ment of the lights shows that it was planned as a 
white-line engra\ing. The rea.son for this treatment, 
ob\'iously, was to permit the picture and the type to 
be printed in one operation. 

The well-known wood engravings of soldiers with 
standards, executed Ijy Urs Graf in the early 1500's, 
are probably the only white-line ]')rints in this medium 
l)y an accomplished artist until the 18th century. 
But these are mainly in (uulinr. with little attempt 
to achieve tones. No acKantage was gained by hav- 
ing the lines white rather than black other than an 
engaging roughness in spots: the prints were sim])ly 
whitusical excursions bv an in\enti\e artist. 

'" Sylvester R. Koehlcr, "White-line engraving for relief- 
printing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries," in Annual 
report of the . . . Smithsonian Institution . . . for the year ending 
June 30, 1890, report oj the U. S. National Museum, Washington, 
1892, pp. 385-389. 




f ratrie ibdbart! ojdini^ 
fancti yrancifci 

Figure 4.— Whitl-Line Engraving on Metal for Relief Printing, "The Franciscan, 
Pelbart of Temesvar, Studying in a Garden. " frfuii "Pnm,-,;„m „„,„f,,,„.t;„i,,/.- f,.,i,:< }<.!h.„,, 
ordinis sancti Francisci," Augsburg, 1502. 



Relief engraving on type metal and end-grain wood 
really got under way as a consistent process in England 
at the beginning of the 18th century. Chatto " gives 
this date as conjecture, without actual evidence, but 
a first-hand account can he found in the rare and 
litilc-known book, published in 1752, in which the 
combination of anonymous authorship and a mis- 
leading title obscured the fact that it is a digest of 
John Ba])tist Jackson's manuscript journal. This 
eminent woodcutter, who was born about 1700 and 
worked in England durina; the early years of the 
century, must be considered an important and re- 
liable witness. Tlie unknown editor paraphrases 
Jackson on the subject of engravinij for relief pur- 
poses: '- 

... I shall give a brief Accoum of tlu- Siaic of Cutting 
on Wood in England for the Type Press before he [Jackson] 
went to France in 1725. In the beginning of this Century a 
remarkable Blow was given to all Cutters on Wood, by an 
Invention of engraving on the same sort of Metal which 
Types are cast with. The celebrated Mr. Kirkhal, an able 
Engraver on Copper, is said to be the first who performed a 
Relievo Work to answer the use of Cutting on Wood. 
This could be dis|)atched much sooner, and consequently 
answered the purpose of Booksellers and Printers, who 
purchased those sort of Works at a much chaper [sic] Rate 
than could be expected from an Engraver on Wood; it 
required much more Time to execute with accuracy any 
piece of Work of the same Measure with those carved on 
Metal. This performance was very much in \'ogue, and 
continued down to this Day, to serve for Initials, Fregii and 
Finali; it is called a clear Impression, but often gray and 
hazy, far from coming up to that clear black Impression 
produced with cutting on the side of a piece of Box-wood 
or Pear-tree. Much about the same time there started 
another Method of Engraving on the end ways of Wood 
itself, which was cut to the height of the Letters to ac- 
company them in the Press, and engraved in the same 
Manner as the Metal Performance; this Method was also 
encouraged, and is the only way of Engraving on Wood 
at present used in the English Printing-houses. These 
performances are to be seen in Magazines, News Papers, 
&c. and are the Remains of the ancient Manner of Cutting 
on Wood, and is the reason why the Curious concluded it 
was intirely lost. 

This is important evidence that end-grain wood 
engraving was not only known in England in the 
early 18th century but was actually the prevailing 
style. In that country, where a woodcut tradition did 

" Chatto, op. cil. (footnote 6), p. 446. 

'- An enquiry into the origins of printing in Europe, by a lover oj 
art, London, 1752, pp. 25, 26. 

Figure 5. — Example of the Wood- 
cut Style that Created Facsimile 
Drawings. Woodcut (actual size) by 
Hans Lutzelburger. after a drawing 
by Holbein for his "Dance of Death,"' 

not exist, the new method sained its first foothold. 
But it was not yet conceived in terms of white lines; 
it was merely a cheaper substitute for cutting with 
the knife on the plank. In I'.uropean countries with 
long art and printing traditions, this substitute method 
was coitsidered beneath contempt. Jackson" de- 
scribes the aversion of French woodcutters for the 
newer and cheaper process: 

From this Account it is evideiu that there was litUe 
encouragement to be hoped for in England to a Person whose 
Genius led him to prosecute his Studies in the ancient 
Manner; which obliged Mr. Jackson to go over to the 
Continent, and see what was used in the Parisian Printing- 
houses. .\l his arrival there he found the French engravers 
on Wood all working in the old Manner; no Metal engravers, 
or an\- of the same performance on the end of the Wood, 
was ever used or countenanced by the Printers or Booksellers 
in that City. 

There were good reasons for the lack of development 
of a white-line style, even in England with its lower 
standards in printing and illustrative techniques. On 
the coarse paper of the period fine white lines could 
not be adapted to relief (typo£;raphical) presswork: 
they would be lost in printint; because the rilibed 
paper received ink une\enK . F.\en the simple black 

" Ibid., p. 27. 



Figure 6. — Woodcut Tailpiece by 
J. M. Papillon, from Traile historique 
et pratique de la gravure en bois, 1766. 
The cutting was done so minutely that 
some details were lost in printing. 
(Actual size.) 

lines of the traditional woodcut usiiallv printed spot- 
tily when combined with type. The white Hncs, then, 
had to be broadly separated. This did not permit the 
engraving of delicate tones. If this could not be 
achieved, the effect was similar to woodcutting but 
with less crispness and accuracy in the drawing. A 
good woodcut in the old manner could do everything 
the wood engraving could do, before Bewick, with the 
added virtue that the black line was comparatively 
clear and unequivocal, as can be seen in figure 5. 

The woodcut, in the hands of a remarkable cutter, 
could produce miracles of delicacy. It could, in fact, 
have black lines so fine and so closely spaced as to take 
on the character of line engraving. It did not, of 
course, have the range of tones or the delicacy of 
modeling possible in the copper plate medium, where 
every little trench cut by the burin would hold ink 
BELOW the wiped-off surface, to be transferred to 
dampened paper under the heavy pressure of the 
cylinder press. In addition, the roughness of early 
paper, which was serious for the woodcut, created no 
difficulties for the line engraver or for other workers 
in the intaglio or gravure media. 

But the influence of copper plate work was strong, 
and some skillful but misguided woodcut craftsmen 
tried to obtain .some de2;ree of its richness. French 
artists from about 1720, notably Jean M. Papillon, 
produced cuts so delicate that their printing became 
a problem (see fig. 6). Jackson, who had worked 
with the French artist in Paris, condemned his efforts 
to turn the woodcut into a tonal medium through the 
creation of numerous delicate lines such effects 

were impossible to print. Jackson '* is quoted in the 

In 1728 Mr. Pappitlon began his small I'arn .Mmanack, 
wherein is placed Cuts (done on \V'o(k1) allusive to each 
Month, with the Signs of the Zodiack, in such a Minute 
Stile, that he seems to forget in that Work the Impos.sibiliiy 
of printing it in a Press with any Clearness . . . Bui 
alas! His father and M. le Seur [also woodcutters] had 
e.Namined Impression and its Process, and saw how careful 
the Ancients were to keep a proper Distance between their 
Lines and hatched Works, so as to produce a clean Im- 
pression ... I saw the Almanack in a horrid Condition 
before I left Paris, the Signs of the Zodiack wore like a 
Blotch, notwithstanding the utmost Care and Diligence 
the Printer used to take up very little Ink to keep them clean. 

It is clear that too thin a strip of white between black 
lines was not suitable for printing in the first half of 
the 18th century. But when Bewick's cuts after 1790 
are examined we can see many white lines thinner 
than a hair. Obviously something had happened to 
permit him a flexibility not granted to earlier workers 
on wood. Bewick's whole craft depended upon his 
ability to control white lines of varying thickness. 
Why was he able to do this, and why could it be clone 
without trouble by others after him? 

Early paper, as already mentioned, had a riblx'd 
grain it was made on a hand mould in which 
wires were closely laid in one direction, but with 
enough space between to allow the water in the paper 
pulp to drain through. Crossing wires, set some di.s- 
tance apart, held them together. Each wire, howe\'er, 
made a slight impression in the finished paper, the 
result being a surface with minute ripples. The sur- 
face of this laid paper presented irregularities even after 
the glazing operation, done with hammers before about 
1720 and with wooden rollers up to about 1825.''' 

In 1756 James Whatman began to manufacture a 
new, smooth paper to replace the laid variety that 
had been used since the importation of paper into 
Europe in the 12th century. Whether Whatman or 
the renowned printer John Baskcrville was the guiding 
spirit in this development is uncertain."' B-kVitx llli- 

1' Jackson, ap. cil. (footnote 12), p. 29. 

'» Dard Hunter, Papermaking through tighlren crnturia. New 
York, 1930, pp. 148, 152. 

IS A. T, Heizcn, "Baskcrville and James Whatman,"' Studies 
in Bibliography, Bibliographical Soeietj/ of the University of Virginia, 
vol. 5, 1952-53. For a brilliant study of the Whatman mill, 
where practically all wove paper up to the 1780's was manu- 
factured, see Thomas Balston's James Whatman, father and son, 
London, 1957. 



who had been experimenting with type faces of 
a Hwhtcr and more dehcatc design, had been dissat- 
isfied with the uneven surface of laid paper. Possibly 
he saw examples of the Chinese wallpaper on wove 
stock, made from a cloth mesh, which was a staple 
of the trade with the Orient. Hunter " describes 
the new mould: 

The wove covering was made of fine brass screening 
and received its name because it was woven on a loom 
in about the same manner as clotli. It left in the paper an 
indistinct impression resembling a fabric. Baskcrville had 
been in the japanning and metal-woriiing trades before 
becoming a printer, so that he was naturally familiar witli 
this material, metal screening having been used in England 
for other purposes before it was put to use as a material 
upon which to mould sheets of paper. 

The first book printed in Europe on wove paper 
unquestionably was the I^atin edition of Virgil 
produced by Baskcrville in 1757. This was, however, 
partly on laid also. The actual paper was made in 
James Whatman's mill in .Maidstone, Kent, on the 
banks of the river Lcn, where paper had been made 
since the 17th century. Whatman, who became sole 
owner of the mill in 1740, specialized in fine white 
paper of the highest quality. But while the book at- 
tracted considerable attention it did not immediately 
divert the demand for laid paper, since it was looked 
on more as an oddity than as a serious achievement. 
Baskcrville was strictly an artist: he took unlimited 
time and pains, he had no regard for the prevailing 
market, and he produced sporadically; also, he was 
harshly criticized and even derided for his strange 
formats."* With such a reputation for impracticality 
the printer's influence was negligible during his life- 
time although, of course, it was widely felt later. 

About 1777 the French became acquainted with 
wove paper, which Franklin brought to Paris for exhi- 
bition. In 1779, according to Hunter,'" M. Didot 
the famous printer, "having seen the papier lelin that 
Baskcrville u.sed, addressed a letter to M. Johannot of 
Annonay, a skilled papermaker, asking him to en- 
deavour to duplicate the smooth and even surface of 
this new paper. Johannot was successful in his cx- 

" Hunter, op. cil. (footnote 15), p. 215. 

" R. Straus and R. K. Dent, John Baskcrville, Cambridge, 
1907. On page 19 the authors include a letter to Baskcrville 
from Benjamin Franklin, written in 1760 in a jocular tone, 
which notes that he overheard a friend saying that Baskervillc's 
types would be "the means of blinding all tlie Readers in the 
Nation owing to the thin and narrow strokes of the letters." 

'* Hunter, op. cit. (footnote 15), p. 219. 

Figure 7. — Wood Engr.aving by 
Thomas Bewick, "The Man and the 
Flea," for Fables, hy ihe late Mr. Gay, 
\11^. (Actual size.) Note how the 
closely worked lines of the sky and 
water have blurred in priming on laid 
paper. The pale vertical streak is 
caused by the laid mould. 

periments, and for his work in this field he was in 
1781 awarded a gold medal by Louis X\'l." 

\Vo\e paper was so slow to come into use that Jen- 
kins gi\es the date 1788 for its first appearance in hook 
isriniing."" While he missed a few examples, notably 
by Baskcrville, it is certain that few books with wo\c 
paper were published before 1790. But after that 
date its manufactiue increased with such rapidity 
that by 1805 it had supplanted laid paper for many 
printing purposes. 

The reasons for this gap between the introduction 
and the acceptance of the new paper are not clear; the 
inertia of tradition as well as the ])rol)able hinher cost 
no doubt played a part, and we may assuiuc that early 
wove paper had imperfections and other drawbacks 
serious enough to cause printers to prefer the older 

Bewick's early work was printed on laid paper. F p 
to 1784 he had worked in a desultory fashion on wood, 
much of his time being occupied with seal cuttinu; be- 
cause there was still no real demand lor wood en- 
graving. In Gay's Fables, published in 1779, the cuts 
printed .so poorly on the laid paper (.see fig. 7) that 
Dobson ■' was moved to say: 

Generally speaking, the printing of all these cuts, even 
in the earlier editions (and it is absolutely useless to consult 

-"Rhys Jenkins, "Early papcrmaking in England, 1495- 
1788," Lihrmy Association Record, London, 1900-1902, vol. 2, 
nos. 9 and 1 1 ; vol. 3, no. 5; vol. 4, nos. 3 and 4. 

-' Dobson, op. cil. (footnote 8), p. 56. 



.'■' .-^M^Vi 



, ^%i-i> — --^_A-^'-i"» j^-i-**'-^^.tgJ»"»ont»*it ^ii:^^^ 

Figure 8. — "The Spanish Pointer," illustralion 
(actual size) by Thomas Bewick, from A general 
history of quadrupeds, i ygo, in the collections of the 
Library of Congress. 

any others), is weak and unskillful. The fine woik of the 
backgrounds is seldom made out, and the whole impression 
is blurred and unequal. 

E\^en in the Select fables oj Aesop and others of 1 784, 
when Bewick's special gifts began to emerge, the cuts 
on laid paper appeared weak in comparison with his 
later work. Bewick was still using wood engraving as 
a cheaper, more quickly executed substitute for the 
woodcut. The designs were based upon Croxall's 
edition of Aesop^s Fables, published in 1722, which was 
probably the best and most popular illustrated book 
published in England during the century up to Be- 
wick's time. According to Chatto, the cuts were 
made with the burin on end-grain wood, probably by 
Kirkall,-" but Bewick believed they were engraved on 
type metal.-' It was not easy to tell the difference. 
Type metal usually made grayer impressions than 
wood and sometimes, but not always, nail-head marks 
appeared where the metal was fastened to the wood 
base. The Croxall cuts, in turn, were adapted with 
little change from 17th-century sources — etchings by 
Francis Barlow and line engravings by Sebastian Le 
Clerc. Bewick's cuts repeated the earlier designs but 
changed the locale to the English countryside of the 
late 18th century. This was to be expected; to have a 
contemporary meaning the actors of the old morality 
play had to appear in modern dress and with up-to- 
date scenery. But technically the cuts followed the 
pattern of Croxall's wood engraver, although with a 
slightly greater range of tone. Artistically Bewick's 
interpretation was inferior because it was more literal; 
it lacked the grander feeling of the earlier work. 

Bewick really became the prophet of a new pictorial 
style in his .1 general history of quadrupeds, published in 

-- Chatto, op. cil. (footnote 6), p. 448. 

" Thomas Bewick, Fatdes of .desop and others, Newcastle, 1818. 

1790 on wove paper (see figs. 8, 9, and 10). Here his 
animals and little vignetted tailpieces of observations 
in the country annoimced an original subject for il- 
lustration and a fresh treatment of wood engraving, 
although some designs were still copied from earlier 
models. The white line begins to function with 
greater elasticity; tones and details beyond anything 
known previously in the medium appear with the 
force of innovation. Tiic paper was still somewhat 
coarse and the cuts were often gray and muddy. But 
the audacity of the artist in venturing tonal subtleties 
was immediately apparent. 

One of Bewick's old friends at Newcastle had been 
William Buhner, who by the 1790's had become a 
famous printer. In 1795 he published an edition of 
Poems by Goldsmith and Parnell, which was preceded by 
an Advertisement announcing his intentions: 

The present volume . . . [is] particularly meant to 
combine the various beauties of pri.nting. tvpe-foi'nding, 
ENGRAVING, and PAPER-MAKING. . . . The ornamcnts arc 
all engraved on blocks of wood, b\' two of my earliest 
acquaintances, Messrs. Bewick [Thomas and his brother 
and apprentice John], of Newcastle upon Tync and London, 
after designs made from the most interesting passages of the 
Poems they embellish. They have been executed with 
great care, and I may venture to say, without being supposed 
to be influenced by ancient friendship, that they form the 
most exti-aordinary eflbrl of the art of engraving upon 
wood that ever was produced in any age, or any country. 
Indeed it seems almost impossible that such delicate cfTccts 
could be obtained from blocks of wood. Of the Paper, 
it is only necessary to say that it comes from the manufactory 
of Mr. Whatman. 

The following year, 1796, a companion volume. The 
Chase, a Poem, by William Somervile, appeared with 
cuts by Bewick after drawings by his brother John 
(see fig. 11). In both books, although no acknowl- 
edgment was given, there was considerable assistance 



1 iguic 9. — Iailphxe bv Thomas 
Bf.vvick (actual size), from A general 
history of quadrupeds, 1790, in the 
collections of the I.ibiary of Congress. 

from pupils Robert and Juhn Johnson and Charlton 
Nesbit, as well as from an artist associate Richard 
Westall."* Bulmcr was quite conscious that a new 
era in printing and illustration had begun. Updike ^' 
notes Bulmer's recognition of the achievements of both 
Baskerville and Bewick in giving the art of printing a 
new basis: 

To understand the causes of the revival of English 
printing which marked the last years of the century, we 
must remember that by 1775 Baskerville was dead. . . . 
There seems to have been a temporary lull in English fine 
printing and the kind of type-founding that contributed to 
it. I'he wood-engraving of Thomas Bewick, produced 
about 1780, called, nevertheless, for more brilliant and 
delicate letter-press than either Caslon's or Wilson's 
types could supply. If Baskerville's fonts had been avail- 
able, no doubt they would have served. ... So the 
next experiments in typography were made by a little 
coterie composed of the Boydells, the Nicols, the Bewicks 
(Thomas and John), and Bulmer. 

When the cuts in this book are compared with 
earlier impressions from wood blocks, the difference 
is quickly seen. The blocks are more highly wrought, 
yet every line is crisp and clear and the impressions 
are black and brilliant. When we realize that the 
only new technological factor of any consequence was 
the use of good smooth wove paper, we can appreciate 
its significance. 

There were no other developments of note in the 
practice of printing during the 18th century. The old 
wooden hand press, unimproved except for minor de- 
vices, was still in universal use. Ink was little im- 

-* D. C. Thomson, The life and works 0/ Thomas Bewick, Lon- 
don, 1882, p. 152. 

•' D. B. Updike, Printing types, their history, forms and use, Cam- 
bridge and London, 1922, vol. 2, pp. 122, 123. 

proved; paper was handmade; type was made from 
hand moulds. The ink was still applied by dabbing 
with inking balls of wool-stuffed leather nailed to 
wooden forms. The leather was still kept soft by re- 
moving it and soaking it in urine, after which it was 
trampled for some time to complete the unsavory 
operation. Paper still had to be dampened overnight 
before printing, and freshly inked sheets were still 
hung to dry over cords stretched across the room. 

But with a more sympathetic surface for receiving 
ink from relief blocks, a new avenue for wood engrav- 
ing was now open. In the following year, 1797, the 
first \()lunie of Bewick's finest and best-known work 
was published. This was the History of British birds, 
for which he and his pupils did the cuts while Ralph 
Bcilhy. his ]3artner and former master, provided the 
descriptions (.see figs. 12, 13, and 14.) It achieved 
an immense and instantaneous popularity that carried 

"'■■"5?:. >V'V--^ 


Figure 10. — Taili'iece by Thomas 
Bewick (actual size), from A general 
history of quadrupeds, 1790, in the 
collections of the Library of Congress. 

the artist's name over the British Isles. The attrac- 
tiveness of the subject, the freshness of the medium — 
which could render the softness of feathers and could 
be interspersed with text — the powerful and decorative 
little tail pieces, and the comparative inexpensiveness 
of the volumes, brought the Birds into homes every- 

.Actually, wood engraving was not immediately 
adopted on a wide scale. Having done without it 
for so long, printers and publishers made no con- 
certed rush to a\ail themselves of the new type of 
cuts. Bewick's pupils found little of this kind of 
work to do before about 1 830. Luke Clennell dropped 
engraving for painting; William Harvey restricted 
himself to drawing and designing; Clharlton Nesbit 



and John Jackson remained engravers, as did a host 
of lesser indixiduals. Dohson says:-^ 

The pupils who quilted him to seek their fortunes in 
London either made their way with diflScuhy, or turned to 
other pursuits, and the real popularization of wood-en- 
graving did not take place until some years after his death. 

One reason for delay in adopting the new technique 
may have been the danger of the block splitting, or 
of the sections of wood coining apart at the mortise- 
joints during the printing operation. If this happened, 
work had to be suspended until a new block was 
engraved, or until the sections were reglued. For 
periodicals with deadlines, this was a serious hazard. 

Wood Engraving and the Stereotype 

In any exent, wood engraving did not really llourish 
until a practical stereotyping [jrocess was perfected. 
By this procedure substitute blocks of type metal 
could replace the wood engravings in the press, and 
the danger of splitting the block was eliminated. 
The first steps of any importance toward a practical were made by the Earl of Stanhope around 
1800, but not until Claude Genoux in France, be- 
tween 1828 and 1829, developed the papier mache 
or wet mat process could acceptable stereotypes of 
entire pages be produced.-" By this inethcd, patented 
on July 24, 1829. and others that followed, a number 
of duplicate plates of each page could be made as 
required for rapid printing on a battery of presses. 
Wood engra\'ing now emerged as a practical rueihod 
of ilhrstration for popular publications. The Penny 
Magazine and the Saturday Magazine, foimded in 
1832, immediately made use of Genoux's stereo- 
typing process. Dobson -'* describes the cfTect of these 

"The art of wood engraving received an astonishing 
impact from these publications. The engraver, instead of 
working increly with his own hands, has been obliged to 
take five or si.\ pupils to get through the work." (Mr. 
Cowper's evidence before the Select Committee on Arts 
and Manufactures, 1835). It is difficult nowadays [1884] 
to understand what a revelation these two periodicals, with 
their representations of far countries and foreign animals, 
of masterpieces of painting and sculpture, were to middle- 
class households fifty years ago. 

-" Dobson, op. cit. (footnote 8), p. 174. 

'' George Kubler, A history 0/ stereotyping, New York, 1941. 
p. 75. 
28 Dobson, op. cit. (footnote 8), p. 173. 

Figure it. I.-MLi'iiiCK by 1 homas 
Bewick (actual size), engraved after a 
drawing by John Bewick, from The 
Chase, by William Somervile, 1796. 
{Photo courtesy the Library oj Congress.) 

We will not pursue Bewick's career further. With 
habits of hard work deeply ingrained, he kept at his 
bench until his death in 1828, engraving an awesome 
quantity of cuts. But he never surpassed his work 
on the Birds, although his reputation grew in propor- 
tion to the spread of wood engraving throughout 
the world. 

The medium became more and more detailed, and 
eventually rivaled photography in its minute varia- 
tions of tone (see figs, 15 and 16). But printing wood 
engravings never was a problem again. Not only was 
wove paper always used in this connection, but it had 
become much cheaper through the invention of a ma- 
chine for producing it in lengths, Nicholas Louis 
Robert, in France, had developed and exhibited such 
an apparatus in 1797, at the instigation of M. Didot. 
John Gamble in England, working with Henry and 
Charles Fourdrinier, engaged a fine mechanic. Bryan 
Donkin, to build a machine on improved principles. 
The first comparatively successful one was completed 
in 1803. It was periodically improved, and wove 
paper appeared in increasing quantities. .Spicer ^ 
says: "Naturally these improvements and economies 
in the manufacture of paper were accompanied by a 
corresponding increase in output. Where, in 1806, a 
machine was ca|)able of making 6 cwt. in tweKe hours, 
in 1813 it could turn out double that quantitv in the 
same time at one quarter the expense." 

» A, D, Spicer, Thf paper trade, London, 1907, p. 63. 



Figure 12. — Woou Lngraninc; by \V. J. Linion, 1878 i,Ac-TrAi. .Sizi.i. I lie detail 
opposite is enlarged four times to show white line-technique. 

Figure 13. — "Pintail Duck" by Iiiomas Bewick 
(actual size), from History of British birds, vol. 2, 
1804. The detail opposite is enlarged three times. 


At about the same time the all-iron Stanhope press 
began to be manufactured in quantity, and shortly the 
new inking roller invented by the indispensable Earl 
came into use to supplant the old inking balls. Later 
in the century (there is no need to go into specific detail 
here) calendered and coated papers were introduced, 
and wood engraving on these glossy papers became a 
medium that could reproduce wash drawings, crayon 
drawings, pencil drawings, and oil paintings .so faith- 
full\ that all the original textures were apparent.^" 
The engraver, concerned entirely with accurate repro- 
duction, became little more than a mechanic whv 
rendered pictures drawn on the blocks by an artist. 
In time, photographic processes came to be used for 
transferring pictures to the blocks and eventually, of 
course, photomechanical halftones replaced the wood 
engraver altogether. 

'" The elcctrotyping proccs,s, which came into prominence in 
1839 throut;h the experiments of Professor J acobi in St. Peters- 
burg and Jordan and .Spencer in England, had made it possible 
to produce substitute plates of the highest fidelity. For fine 
work, these were much superior to stereotyping. 

Bewick was an artist, not a reproductive craftsman. 
His blocks were conceived as original engravings, not 
as imitations of tones and textures created in another 
medium. If wood engraving advanced in the direc- 
tion of commercialism to fill an overwhelming mass 
need, it was only because he had given it a technical 
basis. But it had greater artistic potentialities, as 
proved by Blake, Calvert, and Lepere, among others, 
and has found new life in the engravers of the 20th- 
century revival. 

The reasons for Bewick's remarkable effeciix'eness 
can now be summed up. He succeeded, first, because 
he was the natural inheritor of a specifically English 
graphic arts process, burin-engraving on the end 
grain of wood. This had been practiced almost 
solely in England, which lacked a woodcut tradition, 
for about 75 years before the date he finished his 
apprenticeship. We know from Jackson's contem- 
porary account that end-grain wood engraving was 
standard practice in England from about 1700. 
Bewick merely continued and refined a medium that 
came down to him as a national tradition. 

Secondly, his country isolation and lack cf academic 
training saved him from the inanity of repeating the 
old decorative devices — trophies, cartouches, classical 
figures, Roman ruins, and other international con- 
ventions that had lost their significance by the 1780's, 
although a spurious classicism was still kept alive for 
genteel consumption and the romantic picturesque 
still persisted in interior decoration. 

Figure 14. — Titi.e-Pagk Illi'stration by Thomas 
Bewick, horn History of British birds, vol. i, 1797- 
(Actual size.) 





Thirdly, he looked at life and nauire with a fresh 
eye, without preconceptions. While his lack of larscr 
vi.sion held him down as an artist, it contriljtitcd to 
his feeling for natural textin-es and story-telling de- 
tail. His approach to iUustralion. therefore, was the 
spontaneous expression of an observant but unimagi- 
native nature, coated with a bitter-sweet sentiment. 
It was this (juality, so homely and common and yet 
so charged with integrity, that deli\ered the shock 
of recognition to a rnass audience. 

Lastly, and |u-rh<ips most importantly in the long 
run, he \vas fortunate enough to live at a time when 
a necessary prerequisite for the physical appearance 
of his work, wove paper, was coming into use. With- 
out it he would soon have had to simplify his line 
system, returning to older and less detailed methods, 
or his work would have n-mainecl unprintable. 

Figure 15. — Tailpiece by Bewick, from 
History nf British birds, vol. 2, 1804. (.\ctual size.) 



It was the new paper thai allowed him 10 extract 
unprecedented subtleties from the wood block, that 
made his cuts print clearly and evenly, and that 
encouraged the expansion of the wood engraxing 
process. These factors, taken together, make up 
the phenomenon of Thomas Bewick. 

^^^'^"^p^ • --^ iF -i^ 





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